And Then There Were None: A Film Discussion Guide
May 14, 2010 1 Comment
And Then There Were None (USA, 1945), directed by René Clair, is the original film adaptation of the famed Agatha Christie novel. The novel is the best-selling mystery thriller of all time and one of the top 10 best-sellers among all books in English. The film is popular, too, on IMDb and Amazon.
- Is And Then There Were None a good title for this film? Explain. If you think it isn’t, what would be a better title? Or, how might the movie have ended to make this title more fitting?
- How does the film begin? How does the beginning set the stage for the balance of the story? What does it contribute to the overall tone of the film? What is it supposed to convey about the characters and their relationships? What does it foreshadow?
- How is the violence of the various murders handled in this film? How do you think it would be handled by a director today? Is the 1945 rendering of the murders ineffective for today’s audience?
- Describe the concept of “suspense” in the context of a mystery thriller. In other words, what does it mean for such a story to be suspenseful? How does René Clair, the director, manage suspense in this film? What devices are used? What feelings do these devices elicit?
- There are moments during the film when most viewers laugh out loud. Which parts of the film are intentionally funny? Are any incidents funny only because of contemporary film tastes and the production qualities of films in the 1940s? Give examples. What does the humor contribute to the story’s interest?
- Is this story plausible? Could the events portrayed really happen?
- Suppose you were a character in the story. What kind of murder could you potentially be accused of, given your vocation and the sort of person you are? (No cheating.) Fill in the blank: “If I were ever to commit a murder [however unlikely that is], it would be for ________________________.” Would it be a crime of passion? A means of protecting someone you love? An accident that you could have prevented? A calculated, cold-blooded act?
- How would you feel if you found yourself in the situation of the ten characters in this film: (1) during the boat trip to the island, (2) when arriving at the mansion and learning that the host is not on the premises, (3) when the phonograph is played and each guest (including yourself!) is accused of a murder by the voice of the host, (4) when it becomes plain that it is most likely that one of the other “guests” is both host and killer?
- Which character(s) do you like best? Do you approve of the order in which they are systematically eliminated?
- Are we to conclude that the surviving woman, Vera Claythorne (played by British actress June Duprez), was innocent, that she had not had a hand in the death of anyone? Was she more innocent than any of the other guests? Do you think she was capable of shooting and killing the deranged judge toward the end of the movie? If so, would it be plausible if she then felt so distraught by her act that she decided to hang herself? Would this have made for a more interesting end to the movie?
- Is this movie little more than an “entertainment movie,” or does it explore any important themes or big ideas? What argument can be made that it does address a serious point? What point is that? How is the point developed? What perspectives on this point are distinguished (perhaps through differences that emerge about the various characters)?
- Suppose one of the characters had been a “man of the cloth,” a Christian minister or missionary, for example. Under what pretense might someone of that profession have been invited to the island and, in effect, be charged with a serious crime deserving his own death? How might the nature of his occupation have affected the dynamic of the group when they began to suspect that the killer was one of themselves? How might the minister have exercised leadership in an attempt to solve the mystery, prevent more deaths, or prepare the fearful for what might be in store for them?
- Which of the actors would you most like to see in another movie? Explain why.
- After seeing this film, would you like to read the book by Agatha Christie? If you’ve read the book, compare that experience with seeing the film. Do you have friends who would probably enjoy the film? Why do you think they would or would not like it?
- There is now a video game based on the story. Do you think Agatha Christie’s mystery thriller would make a good video game? Do you think you would want to try out this game? (Are you into playing video games? If not, do you think you might make an exception in this case?)