TV Series: Wallander with Kenneth Branagh ( BBC and PBS)
Guest Post by Melanie McMinn
Melanie McMinn, an American ex-pat writer and artist living in New Zealand, actually takes time off from raising bees, creating creatures of felted wool, cooking, remodeling, and making all sorts of other things including a blog called Frugal Kiwi–which was named one of the five best blogs of Australia/New Zealand in last year’s Bloggies–(pant! pant! she’s wearing me out)– to watch television. When I mentioned that I was doing a series of mysteries here at A Traveler’s Library, she jumped at the opportunity to talk about her favorite. She watches [amazon_link id=”B001VLBDB2″ target=”_blank” ]Wallander[/amazon_link] on BBC, but Americans have seen two series of the show on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery Theater (2009 and 2010), and are hoping the next three will appear soon.
Kurt Wallander inhabits the eerie liminal space of Sweden’s long summer twilight and sunrise hours. Kenneth Branagh plays him as obliquely as the lighting for the BBC’s take on the internationally best-selling detective novel by Henning Mankell set in the town of Ystad.
Wallander doesn’t brood. He exists with the same low level of anxiety that many of us know so well. His wife has left him. His grown daughter disapproves of his profession and worries for his “inner life”. His artist father who is spiraling into dementia disapproves of Wallander as well, it seems, but for years has painted the same landscape again and again as his only work-varying only occasionally to add a grouse in the foreground. Wallander wakes up repeatedly through the series, but never in a bed.
The filming of the series isn’t the gritty cop drama grey we are used to seeing. One word you want is cinematography. Two others are super-saturated. The colours are heightened and you feel you are watching an art film. You know if you pay enough attention, all of this stunning camera work is bound to have a deeper meaning.
From the very first episode, you are steeped in the landscape of Sweden. Blazing yellow fields of rape blow in the wind. That scene, along with the fiery one that follows burns itself into your memory. In other episodes, characters are swallowed by the rolling hills and the crashing waves of the sea.
The set design transports you to Sweden as well. The Scandinavian aesthetic surrounds our characters and defines them. You never feel you are in an anonymous British or American setting. You have the feeling of 60s Scandinavian design, but tending now, 50 years later, to decay and disillusionment-the hopes for Utopia ground down by reality.
The Wallander feature-length episodes generally address societal issues with themes include sex trade rings and near slavery conditions of immigrant workers. If you enjoy incredibly high production values, acting from Academy Award winners, plots from best-selling novels all set in the Southern Swedish landscape, Wallander is probably for you. Two seasons have been released with the third due in 2012.
I also found the theme song of the series so haunting, I bought the album. See what you think from the soundtrack video below.
(Vera Here) I admit that I missed the two that were previously aired, but I’m gonna have to get those DVDs and see some of that “eerie liminal space.” Not to mention Kenneth Branagh, who can always be counted upon to charm and chill in equal measure. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Melanie McMinn.
Videos are downloaded with permission of You Tube. I provided a link to Amazon in case you would like to purchase a DVD of Wallander. Remember that anything you buy within 24 hours of using a link from this site benefits A Traveler’s Library, but does not cost you any extra. Magic, isn’t it?
Do you watch Masterpiece Mystery Theater if you are in the U.S.? Or BBC mysteries if you live elsewhere? Which detective that they feature is your favorite?