Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wallander

We watched the first episode of Wallander last night, and felt distinctly underwhelmed. I'd read about the series some while back - it stars Kenneth Branagh as the main character - and it sounded as though it was not only a top quality production, but that it had enthralled viewers.

I think the issue was the feeling of things being underpaced. Lines that really didn't warrant several seconds pause got several seconds pause before being spoken, and everyone in the cast seemed to have been told that to make the thing feel more Scandinavian they should all talk slightly slower than normal and fill their lines with a kind of Ingmar Bergman-like subtext. Regrettably there wasn't that much subtext.  The mystery itself was plain as day to the viewer - I very rarely guess who the villain is in a mystery but he was obvious from his second scene. And the overall plot was clear from much too early in the piece. There were four deaths within a quarter of an hour or less until it was beginning to feel like some Grand Guignol CSI, not helped by having a serial killer profiler who seemed to know less than the viewers and less than Wallander himself.

Furthermore Wallander's father was plainly in the first stages of dementia. Did Wallander realise this? Nope. It had to be spelled out for him by the old man (played by a grizzled, long-haired David Warner).  'Gosh, Dad, you've got Alzheimer's - I never realised,' might as well have been Branagh's line, but of course it wasn't. Everyone around Wallander (apart from the serial killer profiler) seems more clued up to things than the man himself, so it's a bit difficult to understand what his charisma is supposed to be.

The series is beautifully filmed, and the locations in Sweden are magnificent. I'm just not sure what all the fuss is about. And I'm not alone, it seems. Tom Sutcliffe praised Branagh's acting but felt the Wallander character was "shallower than the performance, the disaffection and Weltschmerz just another detective gimmick.

And plainly things don't improve: John Beresford wrote about the second episode that it "went quickly downhill" from the murder of the taxi driver in the opening minutes; "Pedestrian plots, characters that wander aimlessly about with next to nothing to do or say, and a format that seems better fitted for radio than it is for television. By that I mean the endless shots where there's a someone on the left of the screen, someone on the right, and they stand there for hours tal...king...verrrry...slow...ly to each other with absolutely nothing else happening.

Pretty much my feeling. A bunch of fine actors wasted on a script that doesn't really say very much. Disappointing.


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