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

Nordicana 2013

Arne Dahl cast: Malin Arvidsson, Shanti Roney, Matias Varela, Claes Ljungmark and Magnus Samuelsson at Nordicana 2013
The cast of Arne Dahl at Nordicana
A DERELICT warehouse in Clerkenwell, London, was the inspired setting for the first Nordicana, a celebration of Scandi TV, film and culture, which finished yesterday. You could easily imagine Sarah Lund with flashlight looking for a suspect within its twisting corridors and forgotten work spaces. 

Instead of killers and corpses, however, were screenings, Q&A sessions with the actors, in addition to glasses of Icelandic vodka, smoked salmon and massages. Oh, and the famous Lund sweater was for sale too. The two-day event featured screenings of TV’s Wallander, Arne Dahl and Borgen, along with panels from actors including Charlotta Jonsson (Wallander), most of the Arne Dahl cast, and Lars Knutzon (Borgen). 

There were sessions with authors Ann Cleeves (Shetland, which is almost in Scandinavia), and David

Nordicana 2013, in Clerkenwell, London
Inspired setting – The Farmiloe Building, London

Hewson, author of the recent novelisations of The Killing. In addition, several movies were screened, including Love Is All You Need, starring Pierce Brosnan, The Hunt, with Mads Mikkelsen, and A Hijacking.


Nordicana is a sign that our liking for noir in the cold climates has taken root since The Killing became such a hit on BBC4. I was struck by how packed the two screenings for Arne Dahl were. 

This cop drama hasn’t generated as many headlines as Sarah Lund, but it was clear at the screenings of the brilliant two-part series finale, Europa, that Arne Dahl has quietly built an avid following. That the cast on the panel interviewed by crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw – Malin Arvidsson, Shanti Roney, Matias Varela, Claes Ljungmark and Magnus Samuelsson – were all so charming and approachable will have done nothing to dent the series’ popularity.
Nordicana was good fun. The next appointments with Scandi dramas will be back in our front rooms as BBC4 lines up Borgen 3 and The Bridge 2 for broadcast.

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• Crime Zapper – DCI Banks, Garrow’s Law, Silent Witness •

• OK, I admit it. I wasn’t a fan of DCI Banks: Aftermath on ITV1. It didn’t do Peter Robinson’s book justice, and its lead player, Mr Everyman Stephen Tompkinson, was too manic and just plain wrong in the part. Banks is pretty hot with the ladies in the novel, whereas on screen Tompkinson was forever ranting and looking psychotic. He seems to be in the Robson Green-Martin Clunes knee-jerk favourite zone at ITV – every part that comes along, no matter how unsuitable, being put his way. The newspaper reviews were also lukewarm, many saying it was a bit too routine a procedural. The great British viewership, however, switched on to it. Banks got higher ratings (5.6m) on its opening night than Spooks, which is impressive bearing in mind the latter’s huge fanbase and eight-year headstart. And now Left Bank Pictures has announced that there will be three new further Banks adaptations in 2011 – Playing with Fire, Friend of the Devil and Cold as the Grave (six hour-long episodes, two per story). 

• The ludicrously brief series of Garrow’s Law – just four episodes – was short but compelling, and ended with a terrific finale on Sunday. Andrew Buchan wrung tears and snot in a highly charged story as Garrow faced ruin and disgrace along with the woman he loves, Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal). Apart from the central drama and Garrow’s brilliant performances in the old Old Bailey, the series has reflected on the grotesque legal system of the late 18th century – with a 12-year-old boy being hung for theft in this episode. Alun Armstrong as Garrow’s solicitor and mentor, Southouse, gave a grandstanding speech at Garrow’s trial for Criminal Conversation (adultery to us), and Sir Arthur (made very loathsome by Rupert Graves) got his humiliating comeuppance. Anyone intrigued by these stories, based on the records of the Old Bailey, may be interested in knowing more about the real cases behind the series’ dramas from its legal consultant on historical matter, Mark Pallis, who has a blog. And the Beeb has a round-up of all the buzz created by Garrow’s Law here.

Emilia Fox in Silent Witness (BBC)

• In addition to Zen with Rufus Sewell coming along on BBC1 in the first week of January, a new series of Hustle and the 14th of Silent Witness are also lined up (though no dates and times have been announced yet). Silent Witness opens with a two part story called A Guilty Mind, in which three patients die unexpectedly in the same ward of a London hospital. Emilia Fox, who plays Dr Nikki Alexander, says, ‘The case affects Nikki deeply and personally and looks at the less tangible part of pathology, which is the mind. We are used to the team finding things out through the organs and the body, but of course when it comes to the mind it’s a lot harder to deal with.’ Previews will follow on crimetimepreview.

• The Beeb has also announced another new thriller series for 2011, Stolen starring Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers, The Forsyte Saga, Life). He plays Detective Inspector Anthony Carter, who’s trying to rescue some children from child slavery. It’s to be directed by Justin Chadwick, whose credits include The Other Boleyn Girl and Bleak House.

Foyle’s War is thrashing all-comers in crimetimepreview‘s poll of 2010’s top crime series. Only Sherlock is putting up a fight, with the likes of Spooks and Poirot taking a pasting. Just 13 days of voting to go…

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