“Poirot’s Christmas” film by Edward Bennett: based on the novel by Agatha Christie

“Oh no, not bad, indeed it is a very poetic thing! But let’s look at the facts. You said that Christmas is a time for good meals. This means that in these days we eat and drink too much… As a result… indigestion, and indigestion is often accompanied by a special irritability of character”.

Poirot’s Christmas film by Edward Bennett

Taken from the novel Hercule Poirot’s Christmas Of Agatha Christiepublished in 1939, Poirot’s Christmas It’s a Christmas movie.

Made by the director Edward Bennett in 1994, the film, with a detective plot, like the book, enjoys the element of the traditional yellow of which Agatha Christie has made wise use in her literary production. That is, that of inheritance, the prime motive that pushes a man to kill someone similar to her. To which is added another factor specific to the literary genre in question: a murder that takes place in a closed room.

“I believe that only the present matters, not the past. Let’s forget about the past. If we try to keep it alive, we alter it, we see it in the wrong perspective, we always exaggerate”.

The plot of Poirot’s Christmas begins with the presence of a wealthy old English gentleman, such Simeon Lee, whose existence was not at all edifying, at his home in Gorston Hall.

The man, during the Christmas holidays he decides to bring his children together with him whom he hasn’t seen for a long time, about 20 years to be precise, who are joined by a niece, or presumed niece, and the son of a friend.

“But I remember perfectly every word and every incident of those days!”

Simeon’s children include Alfredalready residing with his father and ready to satisfy every request of old Lee, even the most bizarre, with his wife Lydia. Characters who appear on stage from the first moment.

The other relativeshowever, they later arrive at Groston Hall. Including George, Member of Parliament, with his capricious consort Maude, both economically dependent on Simeon.

David, who lives in the eternal memory of his mother and holds a strong grudge against his father, accusing him of not having been a good husband and even less a good father, is in the company of his wife Hilda.

Then there’s Harry, the dissolute, long away from his father’s house, also hosted at Croston Hall on the occasion of Christmas, despite the disagreement with one’s brothers.

Another character present on stage is Pilar, granddaughter of Simeon, and Stephen Farr, son of an old friend of his. Also Colonel Johnson, Chief of Police, and Superintendent Sugden.

You are invited to spend Christmas with your family, the children, of course, cannot refuse the old father’s invitation. Except that, having reached Gorston Hall, they wonder what may have prompted him to want them next to him for the Christmas holidays. Despite the good intentions of those present, even if apparent, the atmosphere, as tradition would have it, is by no means one of peace and serenity.

On the contrary, relations between the relatives are far from idyllicpretending a non-existent cordiality.

And which is a reason to accentuate the tension that hovers over the group, certainly not a good omen for celebrating such an important holiday as Christmas.

“At Christmas the spirit of “goodwill” rules. Old quarrels are forgotten, those who disagree make peace… Albeit temporarily, families that have been separated for the whole year are reunited once again. On these occasions, my friend, it must

admit that nerves can be put to the test. People who have no desire to be lovable make an effort to appear so…”

After dinner, old Lee gathers his sons and explains why he has summoned them to Gorston Hall. Or, his intention to change the will. But, in favor of whom or why, however, it is not known. Then, stage a pantomime during which he insults his children, which takes on the contours of his petty form of entertainment.

After dinner, each person, mortified and embittered due to the behavior of the elderly, he withdraws to the various corners of the house in an atmosphere of apparent tranquillity. Except that at a certain point from the old parent’s room come suspicious noises of overturned furniture on the floor, which are accompanied by a cry that tears the already gloomy atmosphere of the Lee home. Noiseswho push relatives to go to Simeon’s rescue.

But, reached the old man’s room Harry and Alfred wonder how to enter. And it is at this point that a typical element of the thriller genre presents itself as a motive of absolute scenic impact, which enriches an already engaging film story: the room is locked from the inside.

Poirot's Christmas film by Edward Bennett
Poirot’s Christmas film by Edward Bennett

The only solution that awaits the two is break down the door to find out what happened to their father. After forcing the door, they make a gruesome discovery: the corpse of the head of the family he is lying lifeless in front of the path with his throat cut.

In the meantime, also attracted by the disturbing noises, he intervenes on the scene Sergeant Sudgent, which initiates an investigation to find the perpetrator of the crime. The solution to which is immediately complex because it is full of contradictions.

But, to take over the reins of the investigation is Hercul Poirot, who, in collaboration with Colonel Johnson, of whom he is a guest, subjects all those present to a series of interrogations.

Interrogations, however, which at least at first do not seem to clarify anything, except that the fact that Simeon possessed diamonds kept in a safe comes to light.

Diamonds, but disappeared.

“No, no, it’s me who presents them like this… and who maintains that the effort to be good and amiable creates a malaise that can ultimately be dangerous. Close the safety valves of your natural demeanor, and sooner or later the boiler will burst causing disaster.”

Subsequently, here is an epiphany on stage which turns out to be important for resolving the tangled story: Stephen, son of a friend of Simeon, is his natural son. He is therefore not a Farr, as was initially believed, but a Lee. To which we must add the discovery that Pilar is not Simeon’s real granddaughter, but a woman who assumed his identity, after the latter died in Spain.

At a certain point in film development the missing diamonds are found in a Japanese garden of Lydia. Twist that adds to a well-articulated plot. Which leads Poirot to the conclusion that all family members are potential killerswhose motive is clear: to prevent old Lee’s legacy from falling into the hands of those who are not closely related to the family unit. Also because Simeon, in life, was a great womanizer and fathered illegitimate children, as admitted by himself in the family reunion prior to his death.

ghowever, the alibis of those present have dark holes, and the motive that could have led them to kill old Lee is absolutely plausible. Therefore, the investigator with a fine nose that Poirot proves to be even on this occasion does not let himself be convinced by appearances, and helped by his acumen and deductive abilities of him, digs into the past of the Lee family.

Finally, coming to the head of a rather obscure crime, until discovering the person responsible for the murder of old Lee.

Film with a well-structured plot, traditional and innovative at the same time, Poirot’s Christmas has a very interesting plotwith effective twists.

It also benefits from a rhythm punctuated with great naturalness thanks to the excellent interpretation of the actors, who with a touch of light irony promise a completely enjoyable film with a timeless flavour. With characters outlined with strokes of verisimilitude, of the great writer who was Agatha Christie.

The film adaptation of Poirot’s Christmas staged by the director, as also underlined by the author, has highlighted a vision of the concept of family that is certainly not edifying. Not a family institution as conceived by the majority of people. But a family fresco within which completely negative feelings find space in a jumble of hypocrisy.

“There is a lot of hypocrisy in them, a Christmas, honorable hypocrisy, no doubt, hypocrisy pour le bon motif, but always hypocrisy. And the effort to be good and lovable creates a malaise that can be ultimately dangerous. Close the safety valves of your demeanor and sooner or later the boiler will burst causing a disaster”.

Written by Caroline Colombi

“Poirot’s Christmas” film by Edward Bennett: based on the novel by Agatha Christie – OUBLIETTE MAGAZINE