Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm very partial to the Kurt Wallander books by Henning Mankell, mainly because, for some reason, they are extremely easy for me to read in Swedish. Having lived in Sweden for 3 years, I did pick up a bit of it, but quite a few authors are just beyond my reading ability. Maybe Mankell writes on the equivalent of a fourth grade level or something . . . . At any rate, I've always viewed them fondly because I can actually understand what's going on in them. I was in no way prepared when he became the father of the whole Scandinavian Crime Novel movement that also includes Steig Larsson, Kjell Ericksson, Liza Marklund, Arnaldur Indridason, Karin Fossum, Camilla Läckberg, etc. etc. It's really amazing that an entire tourist industry has sprung up around the Wallander novels, and Ystad, the southern Swedish city where the books are set -- although I'm sure Ystad is thrilled with all the new visitors.

I was therefore excited to see the series Wallander, based on three
of the novels in the series and starring Kenneth Branagh as the title character. The series was filmed on location and includes some lovely scenery of the coast, town and farmlands. I have to say that Branagh makes for a passable Wallander, although he's still not 100% right. For one thing, stubble aside, he's still much too neat and tidy. I always picture Wallander as being somewhat disheveled. But I suppose that's a small quibble in an otherwise interesting series.

The first story, Sidetracked, concerns the bizarre case of a young girl who runs into a canola field and sets herself on fire in front of Wallander. This is followed up by the discovery of
several murder victims, who are found scalped. The second story, Firewall, begins when two teenage girls brutally murder a taxi driver, seemingly without motive. Wallander soon uncovers a link between one of the girls and a plot to disrupt the global banking system. The final story, One Step Behind, becomes personal when one of Wallander's colleagues is murdered.

As usual, there are some not-exactly-legal events going on, with Wallander deciding to break into apartments and generally go his own way in solving the crimes. He also has problems in his personal life, with an increasingly senile father and a daughter who signs him up for a computer dating service.

I did find the character of Wallander's daughter Linda to be somewhat different than how she was portrayed in the books. In this series, she was smiling, friendly, happy, helpful
, loving and pleasant to be around. In the books she always seemed surly, short-tempered, rude and hostile. I guess the filmmakers felt Wallander had enough on his plate without a hateful daughter to contend with, too!

One other odd thing about this series was the pronunciations. For the most part, they just pronounced the names of people and towns with an English pronunciation. This is understandable and it would have made perfect sense if they had kept that pronunciation all the way through. The inexplicable thing is that they insisted on pronouncing the name of the city, Ystad, as "ooschtad." Very strange. Granted, the "y" sound in Swedish is somewhat difficult for English speakers to imitate, but "stad" is just that -- "stad." There is no "sch" abou
t it. So why add it? Completely unnecessary and baffling. It also sounds very affected and unnatural whenever one of the characters says it.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the series and I hope there are plans to make more English language versions of some of the other novels. The DVD also contains an interesting conversation between Kenneth Branagh and Henning Mankell where they discuss the character and development of Wallander.

Final Verdict for Wallander: Four Gherkins, for being a fairly faithful adaptation of some classic detective stories


Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved this series, but then I did not read the book so my expectations were probably different. I think it is close to Branagh's best work. I believe I did read that they are talking about continuing the series. Fingers crossed.

Lisanne624 said...

Yes, I hope there will be more in the series, too! I believe in Sweden they made quite a few episodes that just utilized the characters, and weren't based on any stories that had appeared in the books. We can always hope the stars align and they are able to do more of them!

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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