Kurt Wallander’s life is all about work and it is killing him. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as the world weary Swedish cop who cares about his cases at the expense of his family and physical and emotional health. The actor is fearless in depicting a tired, overweight and unkempt man who drinks too much, sleeps too little, and suffers from diabetes and depression. Wallander’s wife has left him, his relationships with his daughter and father stink, and he has no friends to speak of.
The first three episodes of Wallander (Series One) were a revelation. Series Two is as good if not better. The series is filmed in the bleak landscape of southern Sweden and in the small port city of Ystad. Initially, there was thought of producing a feature film, but Branagh voted against it, saying.
I thought it might be tough in the current climate to produce a film with somebody like me in it and expect it would last much longer than an opening weekend. Just because our business is incredibly brutal.” – Kenneth Branagh
Wallander is the brain child of Henning Mankell, a successful Swedish author who created the character in reaction to the anti-immigration sentiment expressed in his country.
I had no idea this would be the start of a long journey,” Mankell says. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden. And, since xenophobia is a crime, I needed a police officer. So the story came first, then the character. Then I realised I was creating a tool that could be used to tell stories about the situation in Sweden — and Europe — in the 1990s. The best use of that tool was to say ‘What story shall I tell?’, then put him in it.” – Times Online
Wallander’s single-minded doggedness in solving his investigations leaves him with little room in life for anything else. The solitary detective is miserable but unable to do anything to change his life, as Kenneth Branagh explained in a recent interview:
So there is little room in his mind for small talk, superficiality. He’s not much interested in sport. He doesn’t have hobbies. He doesn’t have extra room or space for what might be therapeutic reflection. It’s almost always about why people commit acts of violence. And complicated analysis and consideration of what drove him or her to it. Or why the person he has interviewed responded in the way they did. And sometimes in his own life why he is unable to say to his own daughter, “I love you”, or return her call.
‘So all of that physically just makes you feel heavier. I remember reading the script for the first of these new ones – I’d not been near it for a year – and by the end of it I was hunched and bent over. And I felt as though my skin was sagging. I felt as though the gravitational weight of Wallander was starting to have an impact.’ – Telegraph Co.UK
The first series, produced by Yellow Bird, Mankell’s film production company, in partnership with Left Bank Pictures, ran on PBS in 2009. Wallander garnered Branagh a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA for Best Drama Series for the first season.
PBS will offer the following episodes in Series 2:
An elderly couple is brutally assaulted in their rural farmhouse. The press takes hold of the foreigner angle, inciting swift and deadly retribution against local migrant workers. But there is more to the case — a potential mistress, a lost son and a large sum of money. Wallander’s inquiry takes him deep into his own damaged psyche, forcing him to examine and question his own motives before he can even begin to understand those of a killer.
The Man Who Smiled, October 10,
Gustaf Torstensson quietly chants “Mea culpa, mea culpa,” as he drives to his death. His son Sten Torstensson, a friend of Inspector Kurt Wallander, begs the detective to investigate the suspicious case — Wallander is his last hope. But hope has all but drained from Wallander’s life, as he’s now on indefinite leave from his work and has been all but forgotten after enduring an on-the-job trauma.
The Fifth Woman, October 17
Inspector Kurt Wallander is torn between two disparate cases while dealing with one harsh and heartbreaking reality — the demise of his father. When another victim is found, it is clear that a serial killer is at work in Ystad.
As usual, PBS Masterpiece Mystery provides special features that add dimension to the series.