Sunday, June 22, 2014

TV REVIEW ~ Wallender

I've become a big fan of Henning Mankell's most famous creation Kurt Wallender.  Wallender follows the tradition in detective fiction of being an unconventional man who expertly solves crimes against all the odds. What makes Wallender stand out is his psychology. Whatever it is that makes him a good policeman devoted to his job, also seems to sabotage his off duty life. His family have all up and left him. His relationship with his daughter veers from estranged to strained. He just about holds himself together enough to unravel the mystery, but a crime is always a useful distraction to draw himself away from contemplating the mess that is the rest of his life. All the TV adaptions try to capture the carefully drawn internal world of Wallender that is there in the books, but to varying degrees of success. The conflicts, the petty proffessional jealousy with Martinsson and the endless recriminations and ruminations aren't easy to put on screen. Who you get to play Wallender is key.

Kenneth Branagh is the most recent actor to have a stab at it, doing three short three episode series so far. Though there is something about him that strikes you as being too well adjusted psychologically, to pull off the dishevelled eccentric that hovers just on the edge of catastrophy.

Rolf Lassgard is probably one of my favourite actors to have played Wallender. These were all feature length episodes,based entirely on Mankell's books. His Wallender is overweight and crumpled, and you can believe that he is mentally one step away from being fucked up by his job. The only thing that doesn't quite match are his looks and appeal to women. Wallender is a bit of a ladies man, never without an attractive woman he's either wooing or bedding. All eventually become fed up with playing second fiddle to the latest serial killer, but none the less there's rarely a shortage of women in Kurt's life. Lassgard is a great actor and has charm, but you can't quite see him as a great catch.

Krister Henniksson, has done three series. His third and final series has just finished being broadcast on the BBC. I've not always been convinced by his Wallender, but in this third series my opnion has changed. During the series there's been a slow building back story of Kurt's increasing forgetfulness and moments of inexplicable blanking out. Gradually it emerges that he's experiencing the early stages of Alzhemers. Here Henniksson has really come up trumps, playing this supremely intelligent man struggling to hold his life and career together in the face of a debilitating illness. I have been moved to tears by the truthfulness with which his predicament has been portrayed. This largely comes down to the scripts and Henniksson's supreme skill as an actor.

There's been a theme song featured at the closing of each episode. Its written and sung by Ane Brun,and called The Opening, its a touchingly poignant song, that I've come to be found of, enough to buy it from I Tunes. While this was definitely the last we'll see of Henniksson as Wallender, there is a fourth series with Branagh in the pipeline..Until then there is still plenty of the books I have yet to read.

1 comment:

Jayarava Attwood said...


I'm also a fan. I've found the last series heart breaking and almost didn't watch the last one. In the books the author makes a point of leaving Kurt to his decline in peace, drawing a curtain over his life and moving on to other characters.

The theme of the ace detective with a terrible home life seems to be a constant in detective fiction. Morse, Sarah Lund, Vera Stanhope, Saga Norén, Martin Rohde, and Jimmy Perez. All the DIs I'm familiar with. They are all so single minded and obsessed to varying degrees by the crimes and the criminals they deal with. Sarah Lund being the most extreme example I can think of.