As you know I hate spoilers so I’m going to strictly talk about the brilliant set design without mentioning anything else about the movie (which by the way is A MUST SEE!)
Director Kenneth Branagh and production designer Jim Clay have recreated the iconic Orient Express to match the grand history of the railroad and Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery.
The Orient Express was a high-class long-distance passenger train established in 1833; its most famous route connected Paris to Istanbul. To prepare for the movie, Director Kenneth Branagh along with everyone involved in the movie took a trip on the Orient-Express, from Paris to Venice because it still uses its original vintage train cars until today. This was a great experience for all of them. They managed to look at and take notes of every detail on the train and made notes of all the surrounding scenery.
Jim Clay also started his designing process by studying the 1974 film and early on decided that the new version needed a more modern look — “a more current style of shooting,” as he puts it.
By “a more current style” he did not mean to make it feel modern but rather a modern aesthetic that we have today! He meant cleaner lines so nothing ornate, and no Victorian furniture, with floral patterns in them!. He went towards art deco and lines that were more geometric rather than floral and this way he made sure that the backgrounds were still opulent and rich but not distracting.
“The idea was to try and give people a sort of sensual, sensory kind of experience of what all that wood feels like, all that marquetry, the crispness of the line, the degree to which they work out the precision of which cutlery is laid out, which was all done with little tape measures and things,” Branagh said in an interview.
Overall, Clay and Branagh succeeded brilliantly in giving the Orient Express the opulence for which it was known for. Just look at the first-class accommodation in the photo above, it looks like a luxurious hotel lounge which was grand yet comfortable!