When detective novel-writer Agatha Christie penned the famous book ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in 1934, she surely wasn’t picturing the events of the plot taking place in the little island of Malta. The story in fact, centres around the Orient Express, a long-distance passenger train service which was much in use in the late 19th century, and which crossed most of the largest cities of Europe, leaving from London to Calais, Paris, and then diverging through Strasbourg, Zurich and Milan, while finishing its routes at Athens and Istanbul.
Malta did not feature in the train’s route at all, and yet, our island was used twice, in two different films, as one of the locations for this story. The first time round, in 2010, Malta was used to represent Jerusalem in an episode of ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot’, a twelve-episode series centering on the popular fictitious Belgian detective, who is one of Christie’s most well-known characters.
This year, Malta will once more feature as a backdrop for this tale, this time for a wide-screen motion picture starring great actors such as Kenneth Branagh (who will both direct the movie and play the character of Hercule Poirot), Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Judi Dench, and William Defoe. Again, Valletta, Malta’s capital city, with its narrow winding streets, will serve as Jerusalem, as well as Istanbul in the opening scenes of the movie. It is here that detective Hercule Poirot is enjoying a much-needed holiday before climbing aboard the Orient Express in Istanbul.
While on the train, Poirot’s holiday comes to an abrupt end as a mysterious murder takes place, and all the passengers become suspects and are scrutinised by the dexterous detective. Scenes shot in Malta will, in fact, feature throughout the movie, in a series of flashbacks pertaining to a number of characters in the story.
The latest adaptation of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is the last of quite a huge number of them, the first one having been filmed in 1974. Interestingly, one must note that there is also a Japanese T.V. adaptation entitled ‘Orient Kyuukou Satsujin Jiken’, which was aired in 2015.
These past few years have been very good for the Maltese movie industry, since our islands were used as a location for a number of other well-known movies. These include ‘World War Z’ (2013) starring Brad Pitt, ‘Captain Phillips’ (2013) starring Tom Hanks, ‘By the Sea’ (2015) starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, ‘Assassin’s Creed’ (2016) based on the world-famous video-game franchise of the same name, and ‘Risen’ (2016) starring Joseph Fiennes.
‘Murder on the Orient Express’, directed by Branagh, was filmed in 2016 and will be in movie theatres in mid-November 2017. The movie-trailer for ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ can be viewed here.