Customer Review

123 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, melancholic adaptation of the Swedish detective series, 24 Jan 2010
This review is from: Wallander - Series 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
These three 90-minute epiosdes may have been intended for TV but they are far, far better than many films produced for the big screen. The downbeat moods of Scandinavian detective fiction don't suit everyone -- full of doubt, disillusion and the sharp edge of despair -- but if you are an enthusiast of the genre then Wallander is a real treat.

It's a risk adapting such a well-established and much loved series of books, but Branagh (one of the series producers as well as the star) is obviously a fan of Henning Mankell's work. The adaptations are a gorgeous representation of the mood and character of the books, yet you don't need to have read any of them to enjoy the series.
Each 90-minute episode is a stand-alone tale of a Wallander investigation set in current day Sweden. They were filmed on location and the photography is breath-taking. Even the most mundane moments -- Wallander slumped on a sofa, for instance -- are caught in desaturated sepia tones, accentuating the drama of an seemingly insignificant moment. When the same techniques are used to show off the eternal daylight of the Scandinavian summer then the results are breath-taking. Almost every shot is a framed, still life artwork. You could watch it with the sound off, just to enjoy the visuals.

But that would be to miss some of the best screen acting of Branagh's career. His portrayal of Wallander, the 'poet detective' with a heart full of sadness and confusion, is marvellous. He can shift from uncertain to near tears in a single sustained shot -- the emotional transitions are sometimes so powerful that it's painful to watch. Yet when Wallander has a purpose he shrugs off that misery and moves with a determination which is unstoppable. It's a wonderful character performance.
David Warner as Wallander's father was an inspired choice too, although I was disappointed to see him in just one epiosde. The special features are also worth watching as they explain much of the production team's dedication towards getting this series as right as they could. On top of that there's a solid supporting cast, some excellent, wry scripting, tight plotting, three mysteries which you can try to solve and a very human dilemma in each episode, occasionally lightened by a sense of resolution, family and reconciliation.

Intelligent drama, beautifully presented. No hesitation buying this to watch repeatedly, although it may be just to miserable (and possibly too thoughtful) for some.

ps: the follow up season, also available on DVD, develops the themes of this one in greater depth and to substantial effect. The rumour is that this series cost the BBC £6million to make: I think it was worth the money...
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Mar 2010 20:44:58 GMT
Great review - thanks.

Posted on 13 Aug 2010 23:49:31 BDT
Banjaxed says:
"These three 90-minute epiosdes ...."

Erm... aren't there six episodes here? There are six episode names on the cover and its Series 1 & 2 - so 3 episodes per series?

Watched them when they were on TV and was totally riveted - well above the average TV cop show - and no false attempts at humour - just very believable people in some pretty extreme situations.

Posted on 28 May 2012 03:22:59 BDT
Hwicca says:
After watching the UK's Branagh portrayal of Wallander on TV, I have now been able to watch the first episodes of the original Swedish series and the original is so much better. The BBC should have saved the £6 million and just broadcast the Swedish series like they did with Forbrydelsen.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jan 2013 20:36:53 GMT
Archangel says:
You couldn't have put it better, Hwicca! :-) You have got it exactly right! :-) The UK's production does not compare to the original Swedish version. Also how dare the Americans make their own version of Førbrydelsen (the killing) and set it in Seattle?! Dreadful! It just goes to show how there are NO new ideas and nothing creative in some cases. A classic waste of money.
I look forward very much to the last Wallander novel; Den orolige mannen (The Troubled Man) being broadcast, all being well this year.
Kenneth Branagh was far better off portraying Ernest Shackleton and was also superb in a film called "Rabbit Proof Fence". Alas this is a film which has largely been underrated.
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