Dead Again

1991, Movie, R, 107 mins


Director Kenneth Branagh and his then real-life wife Emma Thompson both have dual roles in DEAD AGAIN, a complexly plotted mystery that is steeped in a pastiche of Hollywood classics.

Los Angeles. Private detective Mike Church (Branagh), at the behest of the orphanage priest who raised him, rescues an unknown amnesiac (Thompson), who he names Grace and with whom he quickly falls in love. With the aid of hypnotist and antique dealer Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi), who appears on the scene, Grace undergoes hypnosis and recounts her past life as Margaret, a British concert pianist married to Roman Strauss, a flamboyant emigre conductor who was imprisoned for her brutal murder. At a second session, she begins to blur the identities of Roman and Mike, and the latter realizes that Grace is remembering a past life in which he plays a part as well. Intrigued, Church undergoes hypnosis himself and discovers just how symbiotic their relationship is: he was Margaret and Grace was Roman. Further investigation reveals that in 1949 the Strauss murder case actually transpired, resulting in Roman's execution. As the modern-day and past experiences increasingly overlap, Church fears his romantic attraction to Grace will again end with a violent death.

Scott Frank (PLAIN CLOTHES, LITTLE MAN TATE) has created a screenplay which, at the expense of story and character development, prides itself on its ability to quote liberally from great films of the past. DEAD AGAIN borrows icons, motifs, characters and camera angles from a number of classics, most notably Hitchcock thrillers such as REBECCA, with its gothic mansion and creepy housekeeper, SPELLBOUND, with its hypnosis, psychoanalysis and giant Salvador Dali scissors, and VERTIGO, with its reincarnated doubles and Catholic trappings, but also film noir mysteries and Orson Welles's CITIZEN KANE. However unlikely the twists and turns in this mystery, DEAD AGAIN moves briskly forward, never weighed down by any sense of seriousness. Branagh's transformations between his lightweight, American detective and his heavy, Germanic musician are pure bravado, done for the thrill of watching the Master Thespian assume two wildly different incarnations. leave a comment

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