May 2014 + The 5 Faces of Kurt Wallander

You may think that Wallander is a TV thing, and you may be right; but some of them may count as movies, so maybe it’s OK for me to cover them, if I may.

Also, it’s May.

Well, I mean, it was May.

This is about May.

Oh, you know.

What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

This month’s WDYMYHS conquest is the film that IMDb says is the 8th greatest ever, but TSPDT ranks as the 551st! I’d say it’s closer to the former than the latter. Either way, it’s Sidney Lumet’s 1957 post-courtroom drama 12 Angry Men.

Incidentally, watching that also means I’ve finally seen every film in the IMDb Top 250’s top ten, which I guess is some kind of achievement.

The World's EndMay’s films in full

#36 The World’s End (2013)
#37 Idiocracy (2006)
#38 Darkman (1990)
In Your Eyes#39 A Beautiful Mind (2001)
#40 Punisher: War Zone (2008)
#41 Wallander: The Troubled Man (2013), aka Mankell’s Wallander: Den orolige mannen
#42 In Your Eyes (2014)
#43 Backfire (1950)
#44 12 Angry Men (1957)


Bit of a mixed bag, this month. Fundamentally, I’m three films ahead of pace, so that’s a Good Thing.

Elsewise, I’ve watched fewer (or is it “less”? I can never remember) new films than the last two months (though more than the two months before that), and two fewer (less?) than May last year. Overall, I’m ten behind where I was this time last year, too. I could also note that I’m two behind where I was in 2012, when I ultimately didn’t make it to 100, but I don’t think that’s going to help anyone.

So let’s stick with “three ahead of pace”. Keep on like that and I’m golden.

While my viewing has gone adequately, my reviewing of late is less than ideal — just look at that backlog! There’s a clear, if perhaps unlikely, reason for this: at the end of February we got a second dog. Now, our first dog is getting on a bit, with arthritis and a slipped disc; and while he loves his walks, they were a bit of a toddle around before coming home for a nice sleep. The new’un is two-and-a-half and, I swear, has enough energy that, if you could harness it, would put a couple of the major power companies out of business. Some of her walks have taken over the time that I formerly used to write reviews. That’s an issue I have yet to completely reconcile, hence the recent shortfall in postings.

The 5 Faces of Kurt Wallander

Before The Bridge, before Borgen, and even before The Killing, there was Wallander. When BBC One started their series of high-profile Kenneth Branagh-starring adaptations of Swedish author Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels, BBC Four acquired some of the original Swedish TV movies starring the character. They were a (relative) hit, in the process kickstarting the Scandi crime / Nordic Noir craze (cult?) that reached mainstream-crossover level when The Killing aired as a kind of Wallander substitute a year or two later — and you probably don’t need me to tell you how it’s exploded since then.

But it’s not just Branagh and some Swedish chap who’ve played the character, oh no. In fact, five actors have embodied the titular ‘tec on screen to date. Yep, really. So with the third and final series of the Swedish Wallander series on BBC Four at the moment — including a theatrically-released first episode that is this year’s #41 — let’s have a looksee at them…

  1. Rolf Lassgård
    Rolf LassgårdThe original screen incarnation of the detective, Lassgård starred in a run of TV movies and miniseries made between 1994 and 2007 that directly adapted all of Mankell’s novels up to that point, ending with a version of short story collection The Pyramid. Only some of these have made it to British TV, and not in the right sequence, so I think it’s a little hard for British fans to get an accurate handle on his portrayal. On the evidence available, it seems to be a more hulking, womanising take than other versions.
  2. Krister Henriksson
    Krister HenrikssonThe connoisseur’s Kurt, at least as far as British fans are concerned, Henriksson has filled the role from 2005 to 2013 across three series totalling 32 feature-length mostly-original tales. Despite a diversity of release styles (some in cinemas (hence my foursofar reviews), some direct-to-DVD, some premiering on TV), there’s a consistency to these: this Wallander is quiet, methodical, no rogue genius, unlike so many TV detectives, but a dogged copper who can be relied on to root out the truth in the end.
  3. Kenneth Branagh
    Kenneth BranaghFilmed in Sweden but made specifically for British TV (well, and those American outlets that actually co-produce most British drama), this 2008-initiated BBC series also adapts Mankell’s novels. Branagh’s Wallander is a little hazier than the others, prone to staring into space or having a little cry. The series as a whole seems based in a very British concept of Scandinavia — desaturated close-ups of wheat gently swaying in the breeze, that kind of thing. It has its own charms. A final run adapting the last two novels is due whenever Branagh gets round to it.
  4. Gustaf Skarsgård
    Gustaf SkarsgårdThe final Lassgård film, The Pyramid, features flashbacks to a case Kurt was involved with when he was a young uniformed policeman. His 24-year-old self (“Wallander 24” in the credits, as if there’d been a lot more than five of the guys) is played by Mr Skarsgård. Surname seem familiar? He’s the son of actor Stellan, brother to fellow actors Alexander, Bill and Valter. He’s currently starring in History / Amazon Prime Instant Video’s Vikings.
  5. Lennart Jähkel
    Lennart JähkelHere’s where we get really obscure, then. In 2003 Wallander’s creator, Henning Mankell, co-wrote a crime miniseries called Talismanen. Info is short on it on the interweb, but one of the supporting characters is (you guessed it) Kurt Wallander, played by Jähkel. A couple of years later he appeared in the 13th episode of the Henriksson series, which I hope provoked some kind of in-joke (but not one I noticed at the time).

And lest we forget…

    Tom Hiddleston
    Tom HiddlestonOK, he didn’t play Wallander — but he probably has a lot to thank it for. The first two series of the British version feature Hiddleston as a member of Kurt’s team, a stroppy little whatsit called Martinsson. It was after this that Branagh cast him as Loki in Thor, which as we know has brought the guy all kinds of success and adoration. Seems kinda unlikely Branagh didn’t remember him from their Wallander days when he was casting his Marvel movie…

So many Wallanders in such a short space of time… but that’s probably the end of them: Mankell seems to have retired him from novels (or killed him? I don’t know, I’ve not read them); all the existing novels have been adapted in Swedish; Branagh will soon have finished them in English, and then call it a day; and Henriksson’s already had to be lured back twice — the first time to try to better the previous films, the second to provide a definitive screen end for the character. Here, Branagh would probably whip out some Shakespearean quote to say farewell to the character. I’ll just say, tack.

Next month on 100 Films in a Year…

30 days until the halfway point. 6 films until the halfway point. I want to say something like “easy peasy”, but that’s just tempting fate.

…or did that tempt it? What are the rules here? It’s like being in a half-arsed ill-considered horror movie…

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