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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

A Haunting in Venice 威尼斯驚魂夜



Venice can be described as “haunting” just as easily as “magical.” After dark, the romance factor has a tendency to become potentially eerie – in both good and bad ways. It should surprise no one, therefore, that Venice has more than its fair share of ghost stories.

There are haunted places in Venice, but not all of them have specific ghost stories associated with them.



A Haunting in Venice is a 2023 American mystery film produced and directed by Kenneth Branagh from a screenplay by Michael Green, loosely based on the 1969 Agatha Christie novel Hallowe'en Party.


In the aftermath of World War II, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired and resides in his self-imposed isolation in Venice, finds himself reluctantly participating in a seance. However, when a murder occurs among the guests, Poirot is compelled to step back into his detective role and unravel the mystery behind the crime.


In 1947, Hercule Poirot has retired to Venice, having lost his faith in God and humanity, with ex-police officer Vitale Portfoglio as his bodyguard. Mystery writer Ariadne Oliver persuades Poirot to attend a Halloween party and séance at the palazzo of famed opera singer Rowena Drake, wishing to expose Joyce Reynolds—a World War I army nurse turned medium—as a fraud. The palazzo, a former orphanage, is believed to be haunted by the spirits of orphaned children who were locked up and abandoned to die there during a city-wide plague; rumors claim that the spirits torment any nurses and doctors who dare enter.

Rowena has hired Joyce to commune with her daughter Alicia, who committed suicide after Alicia's fiancé, chef Maxime Gerard, ended their engagement. Among the guests are Rowena's housekeeper Olga Seminoff, Drake family doctor Leslie Ferrier and his son Leopold, and Joyce's Romani assistant Desdemona Holland; they are joined by Maxime right before the séance, and during it Poirot reveals Desdemona's half-brother Nicholas—and Joyce's second assistant—hiding in the chimney. Joyce suddenly speaks in Alicia's voice, saying that one of the guests murdered her. Poirot confronts Joyce, who insists he lighten up, gives him her mask and robe, and cryptically says they will not meet again. Seconds later, an unknown assailant nearly drowns Poirot when he is apple bobbing, while Joyce falls from an upper story and is impaled on a courtyard statue.

With a storm cutting off the palazzo, Poirot interviews the guests, during which he witnesses manifestations of Alicia's ghost and hears a young girl humming a tune. The investigation yields perplexing results:

  • Leslie, severely traumatized by his experiences at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, is in love with Rowena.

  • Maxime, who was not initially invited, ended his and Alicia's engagement because Rowena disapproved of him, and Alicia was obsessed with keeping her mother happy.

  • Nicholas and Desdemona have been stealing from Joyce, intending to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, which they became enamoured with after partly seeing Meet Me in St. Louis at a displaced persons camp.

  • Leopold claims to hear the same voice(s) Poirot has been hearing, a claim later also made by Leslie.

When the guests discover an underground chamber containing children's skeletal remains and bees, Leslie suffers a panic attack and nearly kills Maxime. He is locked inside the music room to recover, Rowena giving Poirot the only key. After examining Maxime's invitation, Poirot deduces Ariadne sent it and is conspiring with Vitale: Vitale, who investigated Alicia's death and resigned from the police as a result of the case, gave Joyce private details, while Ariadne had hoped to use Poirot's inability to explain the supernatural as a plot for her next book. Leslie is then found dead with a knife in his back.

Gathering the remaining guests, Poirot reveals Rowena caused the deaths of Alicia, Joyce, and Leslie, hoping to pass them off as part of the children's curse. Obsessed with keeping Alicia for herself, Rowena poisoned her with small doses of the honey of Rhododendron ponticum, weakening and then caring for a hallucinating Alicia (the same honey seemingly caused Poirot's visions) to isolate her from Maxime when they planned to reconcile; the night of Alicia's suicide, Olga unknowingly gave Alicia tea containing a fatal dose and Rowena, fearful of exposure, staged everything. When blackmail threats arrived, Rowena suspected either Joyce or Leslie. She attempted to drown Poirot, realized that she had mistaken him for Joyce, and then pushed Joyce to her death. Later, over the palazzo's internal phone line, she forced Leslie to stab himself by threatening to kill Leopold. When Poirot confronts Rowena on the roof, Alicia's ghost seems to appear to them both, pulling Rowena down off the building and into the canal where she drowns.

As dawn breaks, Poirot parts ways with Ariadne and chooses not to report Vitale's fraud. Later, Poirot privately confronts young Leopold, the true blackmailer who needed to support himself and his father: Leopold had identified the poisoning signs that his physician father missed and realized Rowena's first starring role was in an opera whose lead character is the "king of poisons". Poirot suggests Leopold and Olga clear their consciences by financially helping the Hollands begin anew in St. Louis. His faith mostly restored, Poirot returns home to accept new cases.


Built in 1600, The Bridge of Sighs (Italian: Ponte dei Sospiri, Venetian: Ponte de i Sospiri) is a bridge in Venice, Italy. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, passes over the Rio di Palazzo, and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge's English name was bestowed by Lord Byron in the 19th century as a translation from the Italian "Ponte dei sospiri", from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.


Photographers love to take pictures at the Bridge of Sighs, and many would like a shot of a lone gondolier passing just beneathe it or with a Venetian Mask standing near it. With masks, preferably the classic Black Widow Venetian mask, something like the one featured on the movie poster of A Haunting in Venice.... I was really lucky one misty morning to have my friend and veteran Venetian costumer Falk Maske doing this for me.



Naturally, we went for a short stroll around time after we had a few shots near at the Brdige of Sighs...










As usual, all photos are done using natural lighting only...




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