Recently we had a chance to watch the 50 minute video called “Being Poirot”. For all the Agatha Christie fans, “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” has been a sheer delight. The series started on 8th January, 1989 and went on for thirteen seasons filmed over 25 years until it ended on 13 November 2013. The work boasts of adaptation of every single piece of work that Agatha Christie wrote including Hercule Poirot, including the one wherein he dies. Agatha Christie wrote this story in early 1940s, but did not allow for its publication until after her death. And the shock at the publication was such that the news made it to the front page of “New York Times”.
The phenomenal success of the series can be attributed to the superb combination of set-up, brilliant script, fantastic music and a wonderful team in the background. But, the biggest factor in the success was also David Suchet who brought Poirot to life, literally. He spent 25 years of his life playing Poirot and when he acted in the scene when Poirot dies, he felt utmost emotional strain. In the film “Being Poirot” he talks about his backstage experiences and takes us through his journey while shooting for this series.
The film starts with him explaining his feelings when approached to play Poirot. The role had been played in past by many actors and he felt the challenge and the opportunity involved in the offer.
He started with reading every single story featuring him and he made a list of 93 points that marked the characteristics of Hercule Poirot. He takes us to Agatha Christie’s home in Greenway where he met her daughter. She approved David Suchet on the condition that “we want people to smile with Hercule Poirot, not laugh at him”. And David has done that magnificently. Although, he portrays all the eccentricities of the little Belgian detective including his meticulous and methodical way in daily life, his love for dandified appearance including his patent leather boots, his mincing gait, above all he brings to life this man’s sincerity. When he delivers the line “I do not approve of murder”, we believe him. Hercule Poirot believed that his mission in life was to get rid of crime, to stop criminals while he was alive. In spite of being a little comical character, the tone of entire series is duly serious. Crime is not a joke and he does not take it so.
We go with him through the day when he acted for the death scene. His day starts when he gets into his car early morning. He starts doing his lines and practices his scenes. He arrives on the set and gets into the make-up room. But, once he gets those mustaches on, he is Poirot. His accent changes and so does his voice. He explains that he connects Poirot’s voice with his head. When David Suchet is speaking, he is speaking with emotions, but once he is Poirot, his speech is entirely connected to his brain and not to his feelings. We can see the entire set is sad at the end of this mighty character. However, this was too sad a farewell, so in the later part of the film they show us how the team went ahead and made their last episode based on the “Dead Man’s Folly“. They would give Hercule Poirot a happy good-bye. For the very last scene, they arrive back to Agatha Christie’s house where he poses against the doorway for the very last time as Hercule Poirot.
He further takes us on journey to Brussels where we meet some Belgian fans. He also takes us on the Orient Express. “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of the most admired works of Agatha Christie, and one very close to David Suchet. This was the story where Poirot went through a deep emotional turmoil as to his final actions. David describes in depth how he felt when he filmed that.
The narrative is by David and he talks to us about his thoughts and feelings about Poirot. But, he also goes around and meets the producer where they discuss about the sets and location of Poirot’s flat. The Poirot stories are written almost over a period of 30 years. But for the sake of consistency the producers decided to base all the stories of this series in 1930s. So, the characters that appear at different periods in the stories are all portrayed in one set-up here. We learn how the scriptwriters managed to sketch each character to fit-in the canvas. We also learn how the intriguing sound track for the series was selected. Christopher Gunning won a well-deserved BAFTA award for this track in 1990. The sound track emphasized the serious undertone of Poirot’s work and has been a huge favorite over the years.
During David’s visit to Greenway, we meet Agatha Christie’s grandson Matthew, who shows some of his grandmother’s curios. He also describes how she once saw some Belgian refugees in the village square, who must have inspired her to create Poirot.
In the end, we leave Suchet as he says good-bye to Poirot. We see the pain of a brilliant actor who has given a quarter century of his life to what he calls his closest and intimate friend. After all, for a real actor the boundaries between his real self and his characters must become fuzzy at some time. It must be very difficult now for him to see where David ends and Poirot starts or vice versa. Some part of him will always remain linked to Poirot. And for the fans, we cannot thank David enough for making one of favorite characters alive. What a wonderful job….Thank you very much…..