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Watching two episodes of "Wallander" makes me think of Isabelle
Huppert's line in Hal Hartley's great "Amateur": "everything I write
comes out sad. Why do you think that is?" Kenneth Brannagh's shambling,
weary detective Kurt Wallander is as far from TV's 'Columbo' as it's
possible to get, despite certain physical similarities.
In a way that I seem to recognise as uniquely Nordic, Wallander goes about his daily business solving murders with a residual sadness on him and his world, and everything in the show from the art-house photography and pared-down sets, to the score, to his life and to each episode's stories themselves helps create a consistent portrait, so that by the time I settled down for episode two, Wallander's appearance was an automatic trigger to a certain state of mind.
Each classy episode takes its time, draws visual comparisons, sets Wallander up in his world, makes you know him better. I'm loving it : it's on a par with the excellent French TV thriller "Engrenages" that previously appeared on BBC4, and anything ever so slightly formulaic about the story lines in each episode is offset by the serious and committed acting, the well-drawn characterisation, the consistent visual tone. I'm so glad they avoided the Meryl Streep world of accents and wholesale removal of the drama to the UK (or USA). These are Swedish characters in a Swedish town who write in Swedish it's just that we're hearing them in English. And this technique allows them to cast truly excellent English supporting actors without any fear of uneven accents or geographic transitions that don't work so well. (No English forest ever looks quite like a Scandinavian one. And the British don't so much do sadness and mournful humour, as bleakness and black humour they're quite different.)
I saw Kenneth Brannagh as an electrifying 'Hamlet' on stage in the late 80s, and this feels something like being reacquainted with an old ghost. He's no longer young, and he's not beautiful, but he makes masterful use of his eyes, his voice, the very weariness life has given him to create a memorable man, not just a cartoon portrait. Highly recommended.
This new addition to the TV detective genre grabbed my attention and I was rewarded by an enjoyable drama. I was impressed by the scenery, Nordic interiors and ambiance of this piece, and it had an atmosphere of Northern light that reminded me of other detective stories set in the north, such as Insomnia (Al Pacino, in Alaska) or Smilla's Feeling for Snow. That atmosphere was compelling and Ken Branagh's performance kept my attention, although the plot seemed to be heading in a certain direction and the answer was not a big surprise. The fact that everyone spoke English but all were clearly Swedish was amusing as well. That aspect reminded me of Gorky Park, in which all the Russians spoke with English accents. It allows the suspension of disbelief and the English-speaking viewer feels drawn into another culture. I don't usually watch detective/murder mysteries these days because I don't enjoy murder as a spectator sport, but this was worth seeing because of the performances and the unusual setting, sets, high production values and stunning photography. Looking forward to the next 2 episodes.
Detective Kurt Wallander, a man in perpetual need of a shave and a healthy meal is a noir-by-day modern gumshoe fighting for justice. His dedication has cost him. His wife left him after finding out he's already married to his work. His daughter is an earnest and dutiful supporter of the detective, but oblivious to the evil his eyes see daily. Not sure how he's doing it, but Kenneth Branagh OWNS this role and he's *really* appealing as this frayed-at-the-edges public servant. Shot like a mini-series, or a movie for TV, I admit I am impressed with his ability to flex into this role that is so utterly unlike his Shakespeare work. Frankly, he acts circles around the other cast members. A must-see for the mildest Branagh fan and good enough for any mystery/detective story lover. FYI: Disc 1 has two episodes. Disc 2 has one episode and special features that has spoilers if you don't see the other shows first. I was disappointed that I saw the 3rd episode before the first two. I understand there are 3 more episodes ordered for 2010. 07/09
I usually enjoy British-made mystery series, and "Wallander," starring
Kenneth Brannaugh, is one of the recent series that particularly stands
Based on the mystery novels by Henning Mankell, "Wallander" maintains the Swedish setting of the novels, and the slightly moody tone of the books. Wallander is a complex character with many foibles, but he remains sympathetic, and Brannaugh's portrayal is spot-on. The relationship of the title character with his daughter and his colleagues rings true both to life and to the original novels.
As to another reviewer thinking it's odd that they're speaking English when it's set in Sweden, unless it's being dubbed from English into another language (particularly Swedish), I would find nothing odd about it. I wouldn't expect a British series to be written in Swedish, regardless of the setting or the original source. No more did I expect "The Last Emperor" to be filmed in Chinese or the characters in "I, Claudius" to be speaking Latin. The Swedish setting is highly evocative, and the series is true to the spirit of the books.
I highly recommend "Wallander" for anyone who likes character-driven detective mysteries. (ETA: BTW, anyone who has a chance to see the original Swedish "Wallander" series, it is somewhat different, the drama more implied through the circumstances of the particular crimes, and is more subdued; there's also more of a "police procedural" feel to it. They're sometimes shown on U.S. television w/ English subtitles. I don't know if it's available dubbed or not -- but as I prefer not to watch things that are dubbed even when I don't speak the language, I'm very glad to say that I'm only acquainted with the subtitled version. I'd say that the Swedish version picks up more the plot and action of the books, whereas the British version is more interested in the characters, particularly Wallander, but also the characters and motivation of the perpetrators.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beautifully shot in great locations. Full of English character actors like David Warner and Malcolm Tierney. Kenneth Branagh is superb as the dour Scandinavian policeman. In the first episode, he faces a serial killer with an axe, some severely traumatised young people, a separated wife who's just "met somebody", a bolshy daughter, a father with incipient Alzheimers, a young criminal profiler who thinks he knows everything... It could be corny - especially the obligatory soapy stuff about the detective's home life - but the cast ACT instead of indulging in the overdone thesping that makes series like Waking the Dead unwatchable. OK, let's face it, it IS corny. The direction (and art direction) dazzle, but we can still see all the old cop show clichés. The style is ripped off from the French cop series Engrenage (which lifted its entire plot from Murder One). Doesn't stop it from being compusively watchable, tho.
Wallander is a British television series adapted from the Swedish novelist Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels & starring Kenneth Branagh as the depressed gloomy police inspector (who is also separated from his wife). Wallender is the Swedish equivalent of Inspector Morse. The six-episode series from BBC Scotland was broadcast first on BBC One from November to December 2008. It is the first time the Wallander novels have been adapted into an English-language production. The protagonist, Kurt Wallander, is played by Kenneth Branagh. He describes Wallander as "an existentialist [...] who is questioning what life is about & why he does what he does every day, & for whom acts of violence never become normal. There's a level of empathy with the victims of crime that's almost impossible to contain, -one of the prices he pays for that sort of empathy is a personal life that's a kind of wasteland. Primarily filmed in Ystad Sweden. The 1st disc includes the episodes Sidetracked & Firewall. This series was also partially produced by Branagh personally. See IMDb 1178618 for info & synopsis of all episodes. For some reason n flix is only stocking episode 3 of season 2 leaving us viewers with 3 episodes unseen. This series is so excellent I will buy them on Ama/zon if I have to. To me this series is just the BEST crime drama I have ever viewed. Great sets with highest production values- great plots from the famous Mankells books. The cinematography is just phenomenalreally stunning photography. Branagh as the police detective with personal demons is so powerful in this role. He portrays a complex Wallander with all his character defects-but Branagh helps the character remain sympathetic to us the viewers. Films presentation enables the viewer to understand what they (the ensemble cast) are thinking, feeling. Murder is grotesque & there are some very bloody scenes in this. This absolutely the most spellbinding 180 minutes of film I have seen in a long long time.
I've seen all of the 3 "new" Wallander-movies and I have to say that they are the best so far. Kenneth Branagh's acting is superb. He reanimates the character of Kurt Wallander to a whole new level. Every characteristic of the person is played in a very distinct way. Beginning with filming and camera positions, all of the new Wallander Movies have great moments which are very intensive to watch. I haven't seen much TV-productions with such quality so far. Besides the various broadcasting-times in Germany (probably due to the laws of youth protection), I have no arguments against this Wallander-Thrillers. If you liked the previos Mankell-Stories, you will love this (more book-based) version of the story.
Both the first series of Swedish TV's Wallander and the second
collection of British TV's interpretations have recently been aired on
British TV, and whilstthey share a number of elements and qualities
(locations, excellent filmatography, thoughtful and impressive 'takes'
on the central figure of Kurt Wallander), it's the differences that
seem to separate a good television drama from an outstanding one.
Obviously the two productions differ in a number of basic ways and it's worth highlighting these as a given. For the most part Swedish Wallander uses Mankel's stories as inspiration, creating unique plots per episode, whilst British Wallander uses the source material and thus far has for the most part faithfully adapted 6 of Mankel's books (interestingly the choice has been to adapt out of sequence, although the original stories were also published out of sequence, in Britian at least). An exception is the depiction of Kurt's father and his struggle with dementia, which logically has to progress through the overall TV series.
A second key difference is the interpretation of Kurt Wallander's relationship with his daughter. Swedish TV puts Linda into the police force from the outset, and uses this device to explore their legendary troubled relationship with the added frisson of professional, hierarchical tensions. Also into the mix is the relationship between Linda and her colleague Stefan Lindman. British Wallander maintains the original Linda/Kurt story arc, with Linda not yet having enrolled for police duty.
A third difference is the inclusion/exclusion of the Ann-Britt Höglund character. It seems the Swedish version quickly came to view this character as unnecessary within the looser story structure, as she is dispensed with well before Series One concludes. For British TV Höglund remains integral, just as she is in the books.
However, setting aside these givens, there are a number of factors which set the two interpretations apart in terms of quality, success and viewer experience. British Wallander is quite pacey, moving the story along briskly from scene to scene. Whilst this mostly works, it does occasionally occur at the expense of scene and/or character development - the camera (and therefore the viewer) is forced to follow Kurt, leaving other characters as cyphers. This is most notable during scenes with colleagues at police HQ. Swedish Wallander adopts a slower style, allowing characters and stories to develop and unfold with greater subtlety. This approach leads to a second and quite fundamental difference, and it is this element that underlines the superiority of the Swedish Wallander. The combination of writing, direction and editing for a slower pace allows the Swedish actors to effectively 'do less' and achieve more. Accordingly, Henricksson, Bergman, Sällström, Rapace et al are repeatedly given the time and direction to use economy and skill to enable the viewer to understand what they are thinking, feeling etc. The final episode of Series One was a particular example of this, with all concerned but particularly Sällström and Henricksson underplaying beautifully to create scenes of desperate sadness, bewilderment and loss whilst actually 'doing' very little. In comparison, a combination of misjudged casting and actors being let down by script and scene construction in the British version means for the most part the viewer receives less reward. Branagh, Warner and most notably McCabe as Nyberg are the exceptions, the former not least because Wallander remains the prime focus through the British drama, and is therefore given more time, scene-by-scene, and Warner because he is quite simply an experienced and clever film actor. Yet it is McCabe who shines, underplaying beautifully, especially during scenes in Episode 4 - The Faceless Killers.
Views on casting are always contentious. Suffice to say, the Swedish series has somehow managed to secure a host of clever actors who know a thing or two about camera work, and particularly scenes in close-up. From the moments of occasional humour gratefully received from Mörck's Ebba and Gunnarsson's Svartman (an incidental and unsung masterpiece of a performance) to the brilliance of Henricksson and Sällström, it's the Swedish production which holds the treats and subtleties and warrants repeat viewings.
The British Wallander is indeed watchable, but let's hope the BBC transmits Series 2 of the Swedish production as soon as possible, and let's also hope the absence of Rapace and Sällström doesn't diminish what has been an excellent television production.
This is a series of high quality with storyline based on the successful
novels of Henning Mankell and on an outstanding actor in the leading
Why you MUST see it?
- Incredible character development! Wallander's personality is an open book to the viewer who is in sympathy with him and is able to share their feelings with him as the plot reveals itself. The series manages to depict a great and charming contradiction. Wallander is a compassionate inspector who suffers from the murders he encounters during his investigations. He is inappropriately compassionate for this job yet he does everything for it. Although misery follows his personal life he doesn't lose hope and believes in the goodness of people. This is that gives him the dimension of a hero even though he is presented incredibly ordinary and human who often make mistakes.
- Really good acting from the most of the cast.
- Amazing directing which transfers completely the atmosphere of Sweden. It is really good that BBC decided to film the series in Sweden as it provides ideal landscapes for photography and directing and greatly matches with the melancholic personality of Wallander and with the original script of course.
- Solid script that follows consistently enough Mankell's novels.
If you prefer a series that is based on quality and not visual effects you should definitely go for it.
While it does have its slow moments, and one or two plots may have moments that are hard to keep up. Regardless of how inferior it is or not to the 2005 series which is admittedly absolutely brilliant, this is still extremely good and any other flaws if any are compensated by the quality of how the series is made, constructed and acted. For instance, the Swedish setting is truly evocative and very often stunning. The music is haunting too, while the writing is of really good quality and the stories in general very well written. And then we have Kenneth Branagh, who I think is a great actor and more than decent director, especially in Shakespeare. He is brilliant as the dour and world-weary Kurt Wallander, and Sarah Smart, Jeany Spark, Rixhard McCabe and David Warner solidly support him. Overall, this is a well done television series. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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