Henning Mankell

Before the Frost, by Henning Mankell [TV4, BBC]

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Last month I wrote about the final run of episodes of Swedish TV’s Wallander series starring Henning Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander; next year we’ll have the final three instalments of the BBC adaptations of Mankell’s novels, without which the Corporation likely wouldn’t have thought to shown the Swedish series on BBC4 in 2008 thereby unexpectedly igniting what became the phenomenon by the name of Nordic Noir. So successful were these imported subtitled films that in many ways they’ve somewhat eclipsed the British version – at least in terms of critical and highbrow reception, if by no means not in terms of viewing figures.

I confess I myself have loved the Swedish version and tended to be rather dismissive of the British one. Is it just the exotic allure of the foreign language and the subtitles that’s beguiling us into thinking one is better than the other, or does that stand up to objective review? In many ways it’s hard to tell, because the BBC version is a series of adaptations of Mankell’s novels, while the Swedish version starring Krister Henriksson features original stories and is consciously more of a television series, the novels having already been ticked off with Rolf Lassgård playing Wallander in a run of theatrical films. Where Kenneth Branagh is the unequivocal centre of the novels and therefore the BBC version, Henriksson – at least at the start – is positioned more at the head of a ensemble of crime fighting detectives. Read the rest of this entry »

Wallander S3 E1-4 (BBC4)

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Wallander was the Swedish TV series that ignited the mania for Nordic Noir in the UK, to the extent that even people who still have no taste for subtitled European drama will have experienced its influence via the likes of the massively popular Broadchurch; even Midsummer Murders went off and did an episode in Denmark recently.

But Wallander was the original. Initially just two episodes of the Swedish series were aired on BBC4 in 2008 as part of the PR campaign supporting a prestigious British adaptation of three of Henning Mankell’s detective novels, with Sir Kenneth Branagh taking the lead role and then little-known Tom Hiddleston as one of the supporting regulars. The UK series was popular enough, but it was the Swedish shows that got a lot of interest from viewers asking for more, and so the BBC eventually bought all 13 episodes of the first series to show on Saturday nights; and a phenomenon was born.

And now it’s coming to an end. The third season of Wallander currently airing in the UK is to be the last – that’s the condition that series star Krister Henriksson laid down before he agreed to return. The reduced six-part run has an overarching storyline to ensure just that as Wallander shows increasing signs of a progressive memory loss issue, which start in the first episode when he leaves his police-issue sidearm in a bar leading everyone to assume he’d been drunk. In fact the truth is much worse. Read the rest of this entry »