Things are tough in Sweden….
The DVD Wallander features Kenneth Branagh as the middle-aged beleaguered detective Kurt Wallander. This release is a 2-DVD set–with two films on the first disc and a third film–One Step Behind on the second disc. The first DVD features episodes Sidetracked and Firewall and these tales are based on the novels by Swedish author Henning Mankell. This DVD had been in my netflix queue along with the long wait notice since its release in June 2009, and when it finally arrived, I was very interested to see it. So Netflix finally sent disc one, and I watched it. I should mention that I’d read my first Henning Mankell crime novel earlier this year–didn’t love it, but then the first novel in the series is often the weakest, but since Branagh is such a good actor, I really wanted to see this DVD.
Any detective series (novel or film) has the delicate task of producing interesting crime stories that feature a regular character we care about. So there’s a balancing act between the crime at hand and the details of the detective’s life and character. I should add here that it’s not necessary to like the character in order to find him or her interesting. In fact, the more flaws the better (take Detective Inspector Rebus from the novels of Ian Rankin, for example). These series characters become acquaintances in a way–we want to see what they are up to in the next episode, and the theory is, of course, that if we are so interested in the character, we will come back to read the next book, or in this case, watch the next DVD.
So will I return to Wallander?
The first episode, Sidetracked, begins with a startling, attention-grabbing act of self-destruction which leaves detective Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) feeling both responsible and helpless at the same time. But the attention grabbing beginning dwindles down into a sordid tale of corrupt kinky powerful men and a slew of horrific, ritualized murders. Yawn. It’s been done 100s of times before.
In the second episode, Firewall, Wallander investigates the seemingly senseless brutal stabbing of a taxi driver by a disaffected teen, and soon bodies are popping up everywhere and he’s involved in a fanciful tale of cybernet terrorism.
The second episode showed a lot more energy as the story tweaks details of Wallandar’s pathetic personal life. The poor sod is separated from a wife he thinks he still loves, his bitchy, bratty daughter demands attention, and his father–already irritable and difficult to please–is sliding into Alzheimers.
At first, Wallander comes off as depressed, depressive and exhausted. He doesn’t even have the energy to shave apparently, and after seeing him wake up in chair, I was beginning to wonder about showers. The one relationship in his life is with his daughter, and it consists of her hounding him about various issues and in Firewall she pesters him to start dating. Wallander’s personal life doesn’t sucks as much as it’s non-existent. Branagh as Wallander seems to find even the smallest tasks associated with living to be too much to bear. And all things considered, I found him a bit depressing to be around….
The film may please fans of Branagh and the cinematography is gorgeous, but for me, and I may be in the minority here, I’m not exactly eager to see what happens to Wallandar in succeeding episodes.