Wallander, BBC1, Kenneth Branagh

Wallander: Kurt Wallander (KENNETH BRANAGH) - (C) Left Bank Pictures - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Rocky times ahead: Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh)

A beautifully filmed opening episode to the Swedish detective’s final BBC series

★★★½ BBC1, starts the week beginning Saturday, 21 May

THIS IS the fourth and final series of Kenneth Branagh films based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling novels.

When this sequence of 90-minute, English-language instalments began eight years ago, the Swedish author was still alive.

Mankell, who sadly died in late 2015 aged just 67, had chosen Branagh to portray the rather downbeat detective back in 2007, after the likes of Trevor Eve, Neil Pearson, Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Clive Owen and Michael Gambon were being talked up. The character had already been depicted in two fine native serial adaptations by Rolf Lassgård and Krister Henriksson.

Each of the performers is different. Lassgård’s Wallander is bearlike and a little forbidding, Henriksson’s serious but sympathetic, while Branagh’s is probably the most approachable.

The White Lioness

The White Lioness launches this final BBC outing for the sleuth, to be followed by A Lesson in Love and The Troubled Man.

The opener takes Wallander out of Sweden as he attends a policing convention in South Africa. While preparing his address on ‘Making a Difference’ to delegates, a task he is struggling with, he is distracted by the opportunity to get involved in the case of a wife of a Swedish man who has disappeared.

The episode is filmed in South Africa and the photography around Cape Town and the farmland scenes is stunning and beautiful. Great use is made of the setting, with particularly good sequence when Wallander goes into a township looking for a witness and ends up in a deadly chase.

Henning Mankell’s masterly creation

What the story, whose theme is political assassination, lacks is any personal glimpse at Wallander. He is very much going through the motions as an investigator here, but we never get close to the man.

This will certainly change with ensuing episodes. The Troubled Man was Mankell’s final Wallander novel and sees the detective confronting the realisation that he is losing his memory.

Kenneth Branagh says: ‘I always approach each series of Wallander with anticipation and excitement, but this last series of films contain some of the greatest challenges the character has ever faced. It’s a privilege to try to meet them, and I look forward to a great Swedish autumn working on Henning Mankell’s masterly creation.’

It’s been an absorbing journey, and Branagh has certainly left his mark on the character, picking up a Bafta for his performance along the way.

See also…

CrimeTimePreview’s Killer 50 TV: Wallander (UK) No 23 and Wallander (Swedish) No 22

Wallander (UK) — Killer TV No 23

1495538-low_res-wallanderBBC1, 2008-present

Kurt Wallander holds up his badge – ‘Wallander.’

‘Thought they would have sent a police car. Lights. Flashing.’ – Farmer

‘There was an accident on the Svarte Road. Cars with lights are all taken.’ – Kurt Wallander

Kenneth Branagh, Sarah Smart, Tom Hiddleston, David Warner, Jeany Spark

Identikit: Kurt Wallander, a police inspector and detective in Ystad, Sweden, balances his harrowing caseload with his troubled private life, including tempestuous relationships with his father and daughter.

logosDESPITE THE excellence of the  Swedish version of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels, Kenneth Branagh was eager to try an English-language take on it, and he teamed up with Yellow Bird, Henning Mankell’s own production company for this third version of the character. Trevor Eve, David Morrissey and Clive Owen were all mentioned in connection with the role, but Branagh was a fan of the novels and got the author’s approval. There were cynical media comments before its debut on BBC1 about Brit actors speaking English in the Swedish setting, which entailed mangling place or character names, and of course anglicising Vallander to Wallander with a soft W (producer Simon Moseley thought this wise to avoid the show straying into ‘Ello! ‘Ello! territory). However, once past these incongruities, the series consisted of beautifully produced dramas, filmed on location, and looking terrific, while also offering richly textured stories. Certainly, one of the most visually arresting stories was 2012’s An Event in Autumn, directed by Toby Haynes, who capitalised beautifully on the wintry tone of the short story on which it is based. The director was flattered when Henning Mankell commented [to Barry Forshaw] that his late father-in-law, none other than Ingmar Bergman, might have been impressed. Branagh had a good cast around him too, with Sarah Smart and Tom Hiddleston as his junior colleagues, Saskia Reeves as the woman trying to build a love life with Wallander, and David Warner as his deteriorating father, Povel. The series never came close to achieving an aim stated at the time of the series’ launch of becoming British TV’s new Inspector Morse, but the first stories – Sidetracked, One Step Behind and Firewall – were definitely a cut above most detective shows (personally, I preferred it to Morse, anyway). Branagh was outstanding as the lonely, haunted detective, though the hero’s levels of angst and gloom were becoming monotonous by the time of 2012’s instalments. Hopefully, the character will move on a little for the final fourth series (consisting of The White Lioness and a two-part The Trouble Man), before retiring to rest on its seven (so far) Baftas.

Classic episode: Sidetracked, the very first BBC adaptation mixed a harrowing case (Wallander witnesses a girl setting light to herself) while introducing viewers to the personal angst of the detective (for instance, discovering that his father has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s).

Watercooler fact: Kenneth Branagh is the third actor to play Wallander as well as the third non-Swedish actor to portray famous literary detectives from the country. Walter Matthau played an Americanised version of Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall’s Martin Beck called Jake Martin in The Laughing Policeman, and Derek Jacobi was Martin Beck in Der Mann, der sich in Luft auflöste. Branagh also opted not watch his Swedish predecessors to avoid being swayed by their portrayals.

Wallander: The Sad Bird, BBC4 – final episode

Krister Henriksson in his final outing as Wallander. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: Saturday, 21 June, 9pm

Story: A well-known restaurant owner is kidnapped at gunpoint, and as his family waits for a ransom demand, the Ystad team tries to untangle a web of deceit surrounding the missing man.

And now the end is near, Kurt faces his final curtain. We’ve come a long way with Krister Henriksson’s Ystad detective – he’s been on UK screens since 2008 – and of course many fans have devoured Henning Mankell’s popular novels – but tonight’s story, The Sad Bird, is the Swedish series’ final episode.

Sad is right, too. Kurt, faced with a difficult case about a kidnapped restaurateur, is also grappling with his fading mental faculties following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

We’ve recently seen Poirot’s dignified demise on ITV, and authors often prefer a grander send-off for their creations – such as Holmes plunging with Moriarity over the Reichenbach Falls – but it is to be expected that Mankell, Sweden’s most distinguished crime novelist, would give his man a more down-to-earth, sobering end.

Krister Henriksson’s final Wallander episode

Having done such an excellent job is exploring modern Sweden’s challenges with immigration, social

Linda Wallander (CHARLOTTA JONSSON), Hans von Enke (LEONARD TERFELT) Wallander BBC4
Linda tells her husband about Kurt’s condition

disintegration and inequality, it is fitting that the author should use Wallander to explore one of the great medical crises facing society.

Painful viewing it is. We’ve stuck with the detective through his failures as a parent and his solitary lifestyle. But seeing him feeding his dog twice, losing his keys and forgetting the victim’s name is glum viewing. His daughter Linda also gives us a taste of how harrowing it is to be the close relative of an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

It is a sign of how well we feel know and empathise with the lonely but decent Wallander that this final 90 minutes with Krister Henriksson’s portrayal is so affecting.

Henriksson, Lassgård or Branagh?

But, of course, there is also an engrossing investigation woven into the story. Paolo Salino is a successful restaurant owner – but his business seems to have a turnover way higher than it should. Is this down to drugs? Is there corruption involved?

The one bright part of the tale for Wallander is that he must work with Jenny Blom of Malmo CID. He likes her and perhaps recognises a soul mate – she is also something of a maverick who has been running her own personal investigation into Salino following the death of her partner.

It’s a memorable, engrossing send-off for Sweden’s greatest detective. Wallander buffs quibble over the pre-eminence of the different Wallanders – Henriksson v Rolf Lassgård in the movies v the beeb’s Kenneth Branagh.

But while there isn’t really a duffer among the three (and the BBC’s series are certainly the most beautifully filmed), Krister Henriksson’s incarnation will certainly be sorely missed.

For Wallander fans, however, there is a silver lining. Kenneth Branagh’s fourth Wallander series should be in production next year.

Cast: Krister Henriksson Kurt Wallander, Charlotta Jonsson Linda Wallander, Douglas Johansson Martinsson, Mats Bergman Nyberg, Leonard Terfelt Hans von Enke, Linda Ritzen Jenny Blom, Per Graffman Paolo Salino, Johannes Bah Kuhnke Olle Tjader

Also check out…

Krister Henriksson: why I’m leaving Wallander in The Guardian
BBC4 Wallander
Our review of Wallander: The Troubled Man

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Wallander: An Event in Autumn starring Kenneth Branagh PREVIEW

Kenneth Branagh returns as Wallander. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: Sunday, 8 July, 9pm

Story: A young pregnant woman is seen plunging from a ferry travelling from Poland to Sweden. As Kurt Wallander is summoned to inspect her remains found on a beach, a death closer to home soon comes to haunt him.

You have to marvel at Kurt Wallander’s rotten luck. Not exactly the laughing policeman at the best of times, the glum one has no sooner found himself a lovely country retreat to share with the new woman in his life than a corpse turns up in his garden.

‘Is this fate?’ he moans. Of course it is, Kurt. The gods – or author Henning Mankell – are going to put you through the emotional wringer again. And in this opening first of three atmospheric films, Wallander is literally reduced to tears.

Saskia Reeves as Vanja

At least the forensic pathologist retains his sense of humour. Having studied the human remains in Wallander’s garden, he says, ‘Thought you were trying not to take your work home with you.’

Missing women and prostitution
Saskia Reeves appeared as Vanja in the last story we saw, 2010’s The Fifth Woman, and here the relationship has moved on encouragingly for Kurt, so much so that she and her young son are helping the detective settle into his country idyll.

However, Wallander is soon pulled away into a dispiriting investigation involving missing women and prostitution. Kenneth Branagh returns to his lead role as Wallander, a part that’s already won him a Bafta, and he has a real feel for the character, playing him with bottled-up emotions and a decency that makes him hugely appealing.

As Wallander and Ann-Britt Hoglund try to trace missing women who may be the body in the garden, they have a confrontation with the vile Petrus, who keeps vicious dogs and has probably been prostituting his own daughters. It is little wonder that Wallander’s need to reconcile such experiences with the normality hoped for by Vanja seem doomed.

Hitchcockian murder in the woods

Petrus taunts Wallander

The BBC and ITV are often criticised these days for a lack of ambition, with acclaim continuing to be lavished on HBO series from the US and Nordic noir from Sweden and Denmark, but while the Beeb’s Wallander still can’t match the 20 episodes devoted to The Killing, each story is beautifully filmed and directed (this first one by Toby Haynes).

An Event in Autumn is an engrossing and chilling opener, complete with a rural stalker, local oddball neighbour and an almost Hitchcockian murder in a country lane two thirds of the way through. Along with Line of Duty, it shows the BBC’s summer drama may be small scale, but the quality is superb.

Cast: Kenneth BranaghKurt Wallander, Saskia Reeves Vanja Andersson, Sarah Smart Ann-Britt Hoglund, Donald Sumpter Fredrik Thorson, Con O’Neill Jan Petrus, Claire Hackett Eva Petrus, Mark Hadfield Stefan Lindeman, Barnaby Kay Lennart Mattson, Rebekah Staton Kristina Albinsson

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Wallander returns in July

Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) and Ann-Britt Hoglund (Sarah Smart). Pic: BBC/Left Bank

The third series of Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander is back on BBC1 on Sunday, 8 July. The first of three investigations based on the stories of Swedish author Henning Mankell, An Event in Autumn, will get the season rolling. Kurt is seeking a new life in the countryside, only to find a corpse buried at the back of his garden… No wonder he’s always a bit glum. CrimeTimePreview will have a full preview of the opener tomorrow. In the meantime, who is the best Wallander ever? Comments below, please…

  • Swedish TV’s Krister Henriksson
  • Swedish mini series’ Rolf Lassgård
  • BBC’s Kenneth Branagh

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