Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” adaptation from 2022 significantly refashions the original plot. Though the film went a little overboard with the tweaks, it was a necessary step to make the story palatable for the modern audience. If the film had featured every detail of the novel, its running time would perhaps have hit four hours!
“Death on the Nile” discards the rudiments of the 1940s bestseller and brings the fresh perspective of the 2020s. It subtly hints at societal matters of racism, women’s empowerment, and post-traumatic stress after WW1. The film views ideas of socialism in a positive light, unlike how it was portrayed in the novel. However, it is not only the outlook that changes in “Death on the Nile” but also the characters, while maintaining the essence of the crime. Curious how? Keep reading to find out.
Monsieur Poirot is a globally renowned detective who specializes in high-profile crimes. But few know that he had a humble beginning as a farmer. Due to Poirot’s brilliance and extraordinary analytical skills, he became the military advisor for the Belgian army during WW1. After the mysterious death of his nurse and former lover, Katherine, Poirot takes up crime investigation as a career in England. Poirot sports a bushy, symmetrical mustache to hide his war scars.
Poirot’s uncanny investigative skills arise from his obsessive need for symmetry. He pieces his case together by using his so-called “little gray cells” in the brain. Unlike most renowned detectives (ahem, Sherlock Holmes), he is emotional and passionate, perhaps because love is his motivation to become one! He is cynical while solving crimes, but surprisingly warm and friendly when he’s not. Except when it comes to his obnoxious perfectionism, of course!
In the novel: While the personality remains the same, Poirot’s backstory has been completely turned around. In the original story, Poirot is a Belgian ex-policeman whose only love interest has been a woman named Vera Rossakoff. The novel makes no mention of a person named Katherine. Similarly, Poirot has no war scar and proudly sports his mustache as a sign of a dignified gentleman!
She is an opulent socialite who has inherited an immense fortune from her father. She was the best friend of Jacqueline De Bellefort before getting married to her ex-fiance, Simon Doyle. Linnet is a brunette in her 30s who appears to have an Israeli accent.
In the novel: Linnet Ridgeway is a golden-blonde heiress, who inherits wealth from her American grandfather. She is the ex-fiancé of Lord Windlesham.
He is Jacqueline’s ex-fiance and Linnet’s husband. He starts as a charming but penniless man. Simon has been in love with Jacqueline but goes through a change of heart on meeting Linnet. As a married man, he does everything in his power to avoid Jacqueline.
Jacqueline De Bellefort
She was Linnet Ridgeway’s best friend till she lost her ex-fiancé to her. Jacqueline is obsessively in love with Simon and stalks the married couple wherever they go, making them feel threatened.
Monsieur Bianchi Bouc
He is Poirot’s associate and the only persistent character from the film’s prequel. He invites Poirot to his friend Linnet’s party at the Cataract hotel. Bouc is a young, charming philanderer who lives life on the edge. While he wishes to settle down after falling in love with Rosalie, Bouc is insecure about not having much wealth.
In the novel: Monsieur Bouc fills the shoes of Tim Allerton, who exhibits the same personality. Similarly, he takes the place of Colonel Race, who is Poirot’s only associate in the Karnak. The only mention of Monsieur Bouc in the novels was in Murder on the Orient Express, where he’s described as a short, stout, middle-aged man.
Madame Euphemia Bouc
She is the control-freak mother of M. Bouc, who disapproves of his courtship with Rosalie. Madame Bouc is an artist and an incredulous character who is wary of the idea of marriage.
In the novel: Madame Bouc replaces Mrs. Allerton (Tim’s mother).
She is the niece and the manager of Salome Otterbourne and Bouc’s love interest. Rosalie is a young, beautiful woman with a dignified personality. She is a childhood friend of Linnet Ridgeway, who has once been ostracized by her for being black.
In the novel: Rosalie Otterbourne is a Caucasian woman and the glum daughter of Salome, anxious about her mother’s drinking problems.
Salome Otterbourne is a famous singer and aunt of Rosalie. She shares a romantic interest with Poirot. She is a bold, free-spirited woman with a worldview way ahead of her time.
In the novel: Salome Otterbourne is an erotica writer and an outrageously gaudy persona. She is a single mother to Rosalie and is an alcoholic.
He is Linnet’s cousin and trustee, whom no one trusts except Linnet herself. Andrew brings to the retreat a peculiar combination of their childhood photo frame and a couple of financial papers that need Linnet’s signature. He is a clever-faced brown man in his 30s and sports a mustache.
In the novel: Linnet’s family friend Andrew Pennington has been refashioned into a young Andrew Katchadourian. Pennington is described as a middle-aged man with graying hair and a clean-shaven face. He has been a close friend of Melhuish Ridgeway. The film, however, excludes Linnet’s solicitor James Fanthorp, who joined the lot to keep an eye on Pennington.
Marie Van Schuyler
She is Linnet’s godmother. Miss Van Schuyler is a very educated woman who stands by the ideals of the working class. She criticizes the thriftless lifestyles of aristocrats, including Linnet.
In the novel: Contrary to the film, Marie Van Schuyler is a peculiar, unsociable kleptomaniac. She occupies the most deluxe room in the Karnak and fancies Linnet’s precious necklace. In the film, she takes over from the communist Mr. Ferguson.
She is the nurse and a close friend of Marie Van Schuyler. Her family’s business was forced to bankruptcy by the malicious doings of Linnet’s father. Mrs. Bowers is a middle-aged woman with a warm and welcoming persona.
In the novel: In the film, Mrs. Bowers persists to be the same character but also takes the place of Cornelia Robson, whose family estate was drained by Melhuish Ridgeway. Unlike the film, Mrs. Bowers and Cornelia Robson (the blended character) have been habitually mistreated by Miss Van Schuyler.
He is the philanthropic ex-fiancé of Linnet. Dr. Windlesham refuses to accept his family wealth and title of a landlord. Linnet calls off their wedding as she disapproves of his charities.
In the novel: Dr. Windlesham in the film is a blend of two characters: Dr. Bessner, who is a middle-aged man and the only surgeon onboard on the Karnak, and Lord Windlesham, Linnet’s ex-fiancé.
She is Linnet’s maidservant, who is secretly envious of her wealth. Louise has a resentful memory of Linnet as she had ended her courtship with her former lover.
Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” emphasizes the life and the persona of Poirot, more than the crime. However, the original novel lays emphasis on the psychological interplay of the characters. It is one of Christie’s special novels where the crime occurs much later in the plot, and the drama steals the show! The story alleviates the brutality of the crime, and rather digs deep into the psychology of a killer. We recommend the film as well as the novel for an audience to truly appreciate the beauty of the story!