Monday, May 11, 2009

Wallander on TV

If you missed last evening's episode on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, there are two others coming on Sundays in May. I've not read the Wallander books by Swedish writer, Henning Mankell but will certainly search them out after watching the television adaptation. Kurt Wallander is a policeman in Sweden. We first meet him in a field of startlingly yellow oilseed rape:

a plant of the cabbage family with bright yellow, heavily scented flowers, esp. a variety ( oilseed rape) grown for its oil-rich seed and as stockfeed.

He has been called by a local farmer because there is a young girl roaming this huge field. Wallander shows his badge, calling out that he is a policeman and just wants to talk to her. In the blink of an eye, she pours gasoline over her head and sets herself on fire. He is devastated, and cries on the scene. What a beginning. The color, the shock of her action, and a policeman crying. I knew I was in for something unusual and excellent in television viewing. The 90 minute program didn't let up. Prominent men are murdered (and scalped) so Wallander must work on these cases as well as trying to find out who the poor young girl was.

Wallander is played by the great Kenneth Branagh, and I don't think he's ever been better. The show's presenter, Alan Cumming, introduces Wallander by saying 'he makes Morse look like Mary Poppins.' This is a complex, quiet man. We know there is a lot to learn about him. In this first episode, we meet his daughter and his father. His family relationships are quietly contrasted with those in the story. There are some deeply troubled young people, and disturbing situations. Not for the kids.

You may read more, watch a preview, and even see the whole show on the PBS Masterpiece Mystery site. This is television at its best - excellent mystery, fine acting, and no ads. There is another review here.


  1. Nan, I loved this series. The original Swedish series (with subtitles!!) was also shown over here.Even darker than this version, very atmospheric. We get so used to stuff being exported from here it's a nice change to realise good quality crime drama is writted and adapted in other countries.
    I really hope they make more.

  2. I had a passion for this series when it was on. During that time the DH was visiting Sweden, I bought him the Wallender books for a spot of bed-time reading...all alone in a Holiday Inn, on an idustrial estate outside of Stokholm, poor old Dh was scared half to death. Anyway, I have only two words to say about Kenneth Brannagh - hubba, hubba.

  3. I'm so glad you are able to see Wallender, I thought it brilliant when it was aired here in the U.K. It just won a big award, ashamed to say I have forgotten which award it was!
    I am a great Branagh fan, I think he is one of the greatest actors around.
    Like you, Nan, I have never read any of the books.
    There are rumours that we will see more of Wallender, I do hope so.

  4. I saw the series on BBC TV in the autumn. It was compelling, although disturbing at times. My daughter gave me one of the books for Christmas but I haven't read it yet because the image of Kenneth Branagh as Wallander is too fresh in my mind - much trimmer, less unhealthy and less brutal, according to the reviews I have read.

  5. Drats, I knew I should have watched it last night! I'll do the rerun bit. Thanks, Nan.

  6. Hi Nan: We are also fans of Masterpiece, it is indeed television at its best. We are also fans of Mr. Branagh, and really enjoyed his Wallander, although in parts it reminded me of Rebus.

  7. Rattling On - very, very interesting about the Swedish version. I like it that the British version was filmed there. Such a different looking locale from the English countryside.

    Dulce, what a funny story. :<) Branagh looks better older than he did when he was young. I think the same about Hugh Laurie. Have you ever seen Peter's Friends? I love that movie.

    Carole, it really is a fantastic production in every way. I love the camera work and the lighting. It just looks so original and as, I wrote above, so different from England.

    Maureen, I hate to think of the character as brutal. Fatter and unhealthy I could take, but the Branagh character seemed so vulnerable in last night's show. There is lots to learn about him I think.

    Chartroose, if you can't catch a rerun, you can go to the site and watch it.

    Donna, I was so surprised to read this, because at one point in the show I said to Tom, he reminds me of Rebus - it was when he sat down in a chair in front of the window. Tremendous writing and acting, we both thought.

  8. So glad to see this - I meant to watch it and had forgotten - now maybe I can catch it.

  9. I love Peter's Friends too, though the critics call it the lovies film. Grrr.

    Nan, you could try this link to see how the Swedish cast look, and to get a general flavour...

  11. Susan, hope you can catch it, but if you can't I think I just saw it available at Netflix!

    Carole, are the 'lovies' that group of friends from college who are the stars of the film?? Well, I 'love' every one of them!

    Rattling On, aren't you so nice to write back. I'll check out the link tomorrow when I have a bit more time. Thanks!

  12. so sorry I missed this last night, but have marked my calendar to catch the next two in the series ... tried to watch it online but it only airs in US ... drat (there will probably be reruns). I'm going to the library and/or bookstore tonight to pick up the book

    Kenneth Branagh looks so great ... older, heavier, craggier. Emma, how could you let him go?

  13. Janice, I'll be very interested in what the book is like! Did you read what Monix wrote in the comments?

  14. I loved Peter's Friends, what a great cast. I have a tremendous soft spot for Stephen Fry, he's national treasure...I know, everybody says that!

    However, as much as I love Hugh Laurie I just can't accept him as sexy old "House". I (mis) spent my youth watching Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster and for me he'll always be the world's greatest nincompoop! (Sorry, Hugh!)

    PS. Is his American accent okay, or is it dodgy?

  15. Dulce, I think the thing that bothers me most about House is the accent. For the life of me, I don't know why he had to take on an American accent. Why couldn't the character, House be British? And the voice is so bland and dullish. I love his real voice. It was the J & W shows that led me to PG Wodehouse!

  16. The director wanted an American lead and didn't realise Hugh Laurie was English, his accent was so good in his audition tape! I love House and I loved him as Bertie Wooster but not Peter's FRiends, definitely too luvvie!

    As for Wallander, I agree with everyone on here. I was gripped completely when the series was shown here and am hoping for another series.

    (As for craggy leading men, have you seen the original UK version of Life on Mars, and the follow-up, Ashes to Ashes? Philip Glenister; mmmmm... yet another Thinking Woman's Crumpet!)

  17. We enjoyed Wallender, and were delightfully amazed by the brilliant rapeseed field.

  18. We do admire Kenneth Branagh and have seen him in a lot of different roles from Peter's Friends to Harry Potter. Yet it took some time to get used to the idea that he should play Wallander, a very swedish Swede.
    But he did it and how...
    Very, very good.
    We have got another talented crime story writer now called Johan Theorin. His first book has been translated and I think it won a price. They say it's going to be filmed, too. I hope it will be as good.

  19. Nicola, I'm more a fan of John Simm. :<) That was a great series. It was remade for the US, but I haven't watched it yet. I just looked up 'luvvies' and found:

    "luvvy |ˈləvē| (also luvvie)
    noun ( pl. -vies) Brit., informal often derogatory
    an actor or actress, esp. one who is particularly effusive or affected."

    Is this the way you and Carole are using it??

    Common weeder, now if they would just change the name of the stuff! :<) I know sometimes people say canola, but it isn't the common usage.

    Christina, thank you for dropping in. I'll look into Johan Theorin.


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