Monday, January 04, 2010

BRANAGH'S WALLANDER: FACELESS KILLERS



Kenneth Branagh's version of Wallander returned to BBC1 last night, and I watched my recording earlier this evening.
I call this Branagh's Wallander because he totally dominates the screen and also the action. The contrast with the Swedish series recently shown on BBC4 could not be greater.
I picked up a couple of pertinent tweets last night about the program; the first I think was by Crimeficreader.

'Anyone else notice that they have a police team, but no one other than Wallander ever seems to do anything?'

That 'tweety' comment was spot on, and the action at times seemed quite ridiculous in that Wallander was doing the forensic work, the stake outs, the interviews, the press conference, and leading the investigation. Talk about overwork, no wonder he appeared to resign at the end.
Perhaps part of the problem is that the actors playing Martinsson and Anne-Brit Hoglund are just not strong enough personalities, they make unconvincing cops and therefore their characters are almost invisible.

The second 'tweet' stated that the production had been 'de-Swedified', and although we saw numerous beautifully staged shots of the Swedish countryside the very English dialogue seemed at times to jar.
Henning Mankell's book Faceless Killers is about twenty years old, and I read it way back in 1997 so I can't remember the plot details, or if new characters were inserted into this TV version. The book was certainly was a good example of crime writers being among the first to face up to certain long standing problems in society that politicians have yet to begin to address.

I will watch the rest of the series, but despite the brilliant cinematography and a virtuoso acting performance by Kenneth Branagh this series still comes in second to the dark drama of the Swedish version.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Philip Young said...

The BBC version was quite a long way from the book, partly to compensate for not being shown first in the series.

In the original, far from doing everything, Wallander regularly turns to his mentor, Rydberg. Oh, and he doesn't shoot Ström...

I very much agree with your point about the weakness of the other team members, particularly Martinsson. And Linda is is horribly miscast.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks very much Philip. I thought there was something amiss but I have read so many crime fiction books since Faceless Killers that I cannot rely on my memory.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Maxine said...

I watched this last night (recorded). Prof P opined that the Swedish series was much better, though we both thought Ken B acted very well. You've articulated most of my objections to the BBC version here - though the accents didn't bother me. It would have been bizarre if they had all gone around speaking Swedish-accented English (like Michael Elphick as Private Schwartz) and I suppose all those actors could not have learned Swedish for the purpose.

Mainly it was made into a bland BBC production- beautiful but somewhat vacuous. I can't remember much about the books, not only did I read them about as long ago as you did, but as you know they came along way out or order at 2-3 yearly intervals so it was confusing even at the time. But I do miss the receptionist who kept everyone in order - police and general public.

The police team was risible - what a waste particularly of Ann Britt. The senior woman and Magnusson were both dreadful.

I am sure as Philip says that the story was spiced up for more action, eg I don't recall W going into a burning caravan.

On the other hand, the Swedish series, though more realistic and involving, kept on changing characters all the time, eg making Ann Britt the head when the senior woman "got ill" (ie left the series), then she left the series herself (that implausible scene in a field with them all sitting round a table), one minute Linda and Stefan were in a relationship, the next they weren't with little plausible explanation, and the last episode - well, though it was tragic, again I felt manipulated - they had changed one person's character in the last two episodes to find a way to get rid of him, presumably as he wanted to leave the series. Also W himself veers between being a loner to having a different woman friend each week, to being a loner again....

So I don't know- stick to books I guess! (though the plots are quite silly in many of the books, too, the characterisations are plausible and consistent.)

2:24 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks to you and the Prof for agreeing with me.
I have been so impressed with the BBC4 Wallander Spiral and Montalbano series that I think Branagh's version would have had to be very good to match them. Terrible casting just ruined it for me. Getting skyped from Cambodia so more thoughts later. Thanks again.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

It was not so much the English accents that bothered me but the way they spoke seemed wrong. I am not sure why, but if you have seen the film Fargo, with all the Scandinavian Americans, their speech patterns are different. Being skyped again.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Maxine said...

All this multitasking in parallel can be quite exhausting, Norman! My two daughters Skype each other now that one of them has gone off, but I can't get my head round it. One of my daughter's friends was Skyping "wearing" a different hat every 5 seconds, most confusing!

10:44 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, Ben is back this evening after flying from Hanoi to Phnom Penh and then to Bangkok-Munich-Heathrow. Nearly 24 hours traveling and he is now feeling the cold!

11:25 AM  

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