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Speaking of Justice: Observations from a multimodal analysis of the 1974, 2010 and 2017 filmic interpretations of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

  • 2019.10.22
  • Event
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, written in 1934, has been described as ‘an astonishing exploration of justice’. The potential for contentious debate over what if any difference can be drawn between justice and the rule of law becomes particularly obvious in how the closing scene has been variously portrayed in the three film adaptations discussed in this present study: Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film, starring Albert Finney; Philip Martin’s 2010 television movie, starring David Suchet; and Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 film, also starring Kenneth Branagh. My interest is in how these three film adaptations present their own take on this debate over justice vis-a-vis the rule of law, focusing on the medium of speech as it occurs in multimodal context. Unlike previous film adaptations of the story, Branagh’s 2017 version removes the closing scene from the confined space of the train compartment to the cold snowy outside, situating the exchange as a face-off between a standing prosecutorial Poirot and the twelve killers seated before him in a row. Combining a systemic-functional analysis of the verbal exchanges between Poirot and the twelve killers with a multimodal analysis of the film, I explore how our understanding (as viewers) is shaped through choices in how the film is shot and what is said by whom.

Topic: Speaking of Justice: Observations from a multimodal analysis of the 1974, 2010 and 2017 filmic interpretations of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Speaker: Jonathan Webster 

Time&Date: 15:30-17:00, Tuesday, October 22

Venue: Room 208, Chengdao Building

About the Speaker:

For more than ten years, Professor Jonathan Webster headed up the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics at City University of Hong Kong. He is currently Director of The Halliday Centre for Intelligent Applications of Language Studies, which has the unique advantage of being the only research centre worldwide bearing the name of this distinguished, globally renowned scholar in linguistics, M.A.K. Halliday. 
Professor Webster is the Editor of the Collected Works of several leading scholars, including M.A.K Halliday (Emeritus Professor of University of Sydney; founder of Systemic Functional Linguistics), Ruqaiya Hasan (Emeritus Professor, Macquarie University, Sydney), Sydney Lamb (Arnold Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, Rice University, Houston, Texas; founder of Stratificational Linguistics), and Braj B. Kachru (Emeritus Professor in Linguistics, University of Illinois; who pioneered development of the field of World Englishes).  
He recently authored the book Understanding Verbal Art: A Functional Linguistic Approach, published by Springer; and co-authored (with M.A.K. Halliday) Text Linguistics: The how and why of meaning, published by Equinox UK.
In addition, He the founding Editor of Linguistics and the Human Sciences, an ESCI indexed journal devoted to exploring the relationships between linguistics and other areas of scholarly concern, including but not limited to history, sociology, politics, archaeology, religious studies, translation, and the study of art. The first issue appeared in July 2005, published by Equinox (UK). He is also the Managing Editor of the journal WORD, the journal of the International Linguistics Association, headquartered in New York.