Published: Jan 12, 2011
At a party, I ran into the woman who had recommended State of Play, a mesmerizing six hours of BBC drama.
Happily, she had a new enthusiasm to share: “Wallander.”
Readers of crime fiction surely know the name. Kurt Wallander is a detective created by the Swedish writer Henning Mankell. He is beloved, and not just in Sweden — Mankell has sold more than 30 million books. (A good start: “The Pyramid: The First Wallander Cases.” To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.)
I haven’t read any Mankell. I have seen all six 90-minute episodes of the BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh. A very different experience from “State of Play,” which we gulped down in a two-evening marathon. “Wallander” is deep, slow, heavy — one episode a night was all we could bear. But we cleared our evenings for a week to bear them, for “Wallander” is beautiful to look at, brilliantly plotted (though Mankell fans, I’m told, don’t quite love the changes from the books), and satisfying on a very deep level<
And then there is the not inconsequential presence of a Kenneth Branagh you’ve never seen before. Here, he’s unshaven, quasi-diabetic, pudgy as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, socially and psychologically isolated — a tormented, tragic figure.
The series is set is Ystad a small city — population: 18,000 — on the southern coast of Sweden. Once it was charming here. It still is. On the surface. But drugs have entered by sea. And immigrants, mostly from Iraq, have changed the character of Sweden. Now there is intolerance. And crime. And a nagging question: “Why is Sweden changing? Can we get our country back?
Season two is just as satisfying. The murder of an elderly couple leads to a crusade against foreigners. A friend asks Wallander for help, is refused, and turns up dead. And then there is a killer with a taste for torture. (To buy the DVD of the second season from Amazon, click here.)
BONUS:Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo sing “Nostalgia,” the theme song for the series