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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Wallander - Series 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD]
Format: DVD|Change
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2010
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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on 27 July 2012
Being a massive fan of the Swedish original, I was a hugely suspicious about what exactly KB and an English version would bring to the table. I actually recorded the first series when it was shown recently but deleted it as soon as the voices were in English. Boy, was that a mistake - I am now totally ashamed of doing that! Having watched and loved KB series 3, I bought series 1 and 2 and they are absolutely superb. KB is a total revelation as Wallander - I think this DVD is an absolute must - PLEASE buy it - you will love it!
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on 4 November 2010
The real problem with the Branagh series is that it doesn't respect what the books are about. Throughout, they are studies of teamwork. Wallander's colleagues are people and written in depth. Each story is a study in relationships. The key scenes are, in fact, the meetings into which everyone pitches whatever they can bring to the investigation. The adaptations for the Branagh series flatten them into insignificance, and the meetings are simply a chance for Branagh to do his impatient act, while the company registers worry. Mankell's "The Man who Smiled", for example, is partly at least about Wallander's relationship with Ann-Britt Hoglund, a new member of the squad. Even in the Swedish series (which doesn't use this story, and underwrites Ann-Britt) she is still a person in the early episodes, represented by the marvellous Angela Kovacs. In the Branagh series she is just a name, a member of the backing group for the star performance. As for any impression that Branagh is playing a Swede, or even a a non-specific provincial, forget it. It's not a question of funny accents, but of precisely observed and imagined individual behaviour. Branagh, who simply plays himself, too often relies on stock English stage technique to get him through the role, at its worst in the moments when Wallander loses his cool with someone. Sure, the Skane countryside is good to look at, but there is comparable countryside, and light, in Northern Scotland - in parts of the Black Isle, for example - and some decent role models for Branagh into the bargain. Some of the Swedish series scenes - the farm sale at which Linda buys a bed, for example - are replicated every winter weekend somewhere in the North of Scotland. I cannot think of anything comparable in the Branagh series, which is just not interested in adult daily life. Ken Stott, for example, would have done a better job. The only really respectable acting comes from David Warner, and there's not enough of him.
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on 20 March 2012
I have recently become a convert to the Kurt Wallender books and so bought the TV drama set. I have so far seen two of the episodes. Kenneth Brannagh is excellent in the lead role. He is obviously a man with a lot of personal problems (wayward daughter, father with dementia, wife has left him etc), and plays this part supebly well with just a raised eyebrow or intense glance to reflect his pain. I had hoped that the TV version would reproduce the books as faithfully as possible but certainly in the Faceless Killers it strayed a fair way from the original plot, enjoyable though it was and it lost a star for that. That said the production and photography are superb with everything filmed in a sort of sepiaish tint which again makes Sweden as gloomy at times as Kurt finds it. Good set of supporting actors in the main roles.
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on 20 March 2010
As a fan of the Swedish (Krister Henriksson) Wallander series I approached the BBC series preparing to be disappointed. The first few episodes were slow and it took a while to warm to Branagh, but the more I watched the more I was taken by his intense, nuanced performance as a man near disintegration. The acting is way beyond any other TV detective series in range and emotional intensity.
The BBC series is beautifully shot in HD (a Red One camera), and as in the Swedish series, the Skane countryside is another character in the brooding, melancholy drama. The Swedish series majors on the relationship between Wallander and his daughter, while the BBC series is closer to the books in tone (and detail) and has more of his relationship with his father.
All in I think the BBC have done a truly fantastic job and Kenneth Branagh is utterly compelling as Wallander. Some of the lesser characters are a little 2D by comparison, but the series oozes atmosphere and is drama of a far higher quality than most of the BBC's recent offerings.


Also give the Krister Henriksson series a look - it's an enjoyable series with great supporting roles.
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on 29 January 2010
The first reviewer is wrong to say that the Swedish Wallander is the original. That version was written for TV (apart from the first episode) and features Linda Wallander as well as her father. The Branagh version is based on the books and captures the essence of the character brilliantly.
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on 13 October 2010
Having read all the books first, I bought the 2 series pack and without thinking put the film of the first book on, only to find it not the first in the film series, why not ? why were they not filmed in the same order and time frame they were written in ? this has become a Swedish Midsomer Murders ! No real explanation for the physical and mental state of the character was given, and without such you have to wonder why this man was not locked up in a clinic. A major contribution to his mental state was the poor working conditions and pay over the 15 year cycle of the stories, he didn't live in a country bungalow,he lived in a scruffy mid town flat, he drove second hand Peugots that broke down, not brand new Volvos.
It was all very frustrating, and for a very rare time I actually watched the extras, and to see and hear that super luvvy in the funny hat talk about using classical swedish table lamps etc was just so much crap. Despite what an earlier reviewer said, thay have not spent a lot of money on them, it was obvious throughout that locations and times had been changed to save money. If you want to watch the BBC series DO NOT read the books first, as stand alone stories they are ok, although they could be a bit confusing. Buy the books after and enjoy a real treat.
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on 6 April 2010
After getting hooked on the Swedish Wallander, I was surprised to find that this recent British version had escaped my radar. Based on the early novels, we join Wallander at the beginning of curve of his personal storyline. Here he is a very troubled soul, entirely friendless, recently separated, and estranged from both his ill father and only child Linda (who hasn't yet decided on a career in the police force). Unfortunately, the BBC series does have some serious flaws. Branagh makes a less likeable character than Krister Henriksson and has a tendency to ham it up in some of Wallanders tortured soul moments which are cringing at times. The whole idea of placing British actors, some with regional accents, into a Swedish scene does jar and this coupled with the fact that Branaghs' clueless colleagues utter some terrible lines should make for dreadful viewing. However, for all it's faults, it does work. It is beautifully made and captivating and I must say I really enjoyed most of the 1 1/2 hour long episodes.
Note: Volvo must be estatic with their product placement.
Officer Svartmann from the Swedish version appears in a cameo role as a neo-Nazi.
Branagh's boss unbelieveably refers to him as Kenneth in her opening line in episode 2 Sidetracked - see if you can spot it.
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on 7 November 2010
I came across Wallander via the Kenneth Branagh series not realising the Swedish versions even existed. After hearing rave reviews I decided to watch the 2nd Swedish version Featuring Krister Henriksson & became hooked. Having first watched season 2 featuring the "rookies" Isobel & Pontus, I didn't expect the earlier episodes to be any better but Wow! My favourite & most powerful of them all is season 1 of the Swedish KH version featuring the Late Johanna Sällström as Wallander's daughter Linda. The BBC have just finished a repeat showing of it & have now started to re-show the Branagh version. I'll certainly watch it again but I'm sure I'll find it hard to switch back having got to love the KH version so much.
In my mind, Wallander is Krister Henriksson. It's often hard to adapt to different actors portraying the same role, Connery will always be my favourite Bond & Tom Baker my favourite Dr Who for example but I was happy to make the switch from KB to KH without a problem.
Since submitting this review the BBC have now started to broadcast the Original Swedish adaptations featuring Rolf Lassgard in the title role. The episodes were faithful to Mankell's books so anyone who's watched KB's episode will get a feeling of deja vu when watching these. I've only watched one episode & find it really hard having to adapt to Yet another actor when in my mind I'd rather be watching KH.
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2012
I was given my first Wallander book in 2007 - out of series order - but it was a really excellent read and I bought all the rest and waited for the final ones to be published. There are lots of options for tv adaptations to choose from.

I chose the BBC box set because I tend to watch TV while I'm ironing and you can't iron on subtitles alone - at least I can't.

If you don't know: Wallander is a Swedish Police Inspector, who solves a number of fairly gruesome crimes that also provide a commentary on social change in Sweden in the 1990s. So for instance worries about immigration.

I think:
1. The casting is very good.
2. The sense of place is fantastic. The cast give you a feeling of 'foreignness' and the photography is lovely.
3. The stories have been well adapted for tv.

I was taken on the hop by the fact that the BBC have produced the stories in different order to publication. It was disconcerting to watch the stories in a different order and I ended up watching Series 2 first as Faceless Killers is the first book in the series - I coped.

Definitely good for a night in.
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