Wallander a Familiar Name For Crime Fans

Sydney Morning Herald, 28 December 2011

Among many aficionados of crime fiction, Kurt Wallander is a familiar name.

The dogged Swedish police inspector, the creation of author Henning Mankell, is the central character in a series of bestselling novels that have captivated millions of readers the world over. What's more, Mankell's novels have been adapted into a long-running TV drama in the author's native Sweden.

In the past few years, however, Wallander's profile has risen even higher, thanks to the critical and commercial success of the BBC's own adaptation of the character's investigations in a series of telemovies.

Acclaimed actor Kenneth Branagh has received some of the best reviews of his distinguished career for his portrayal of Wallander in these English-language telemovies, which are filmed in Sweden. The first season was such a success a second was quickly commissioned, with the first three telemovies to begin airing on Seven from this week.

"What has been so terrific for me about this role is I was already a big fan of the books and had read them purely for pleasure," Branagh said. "My first experience of these books, their stories and characters was entirely as a member of the public enjoying the rip-roaring tales and great whodunits."

But a great part of the appeal of the stories, and of the character of Wallander himself, is that he's someone who takes his work seriously and who is affected by the cases he investigates.

The empathy Wallander displays takes a toll on his personal life - he's separated from his wife and has trouble communicating with his daughter - and his health. It's something Branagh and everyone involved with the telemovies was keen to convey.

"Partly what made the books successful was readers could experience the stories through Wallander's view of the world," Branagh said. "The world Wallander lives in is a raw world where people have to deal with terrible news and with the death of loved ones in terrible circumstances. Wallander is very self-aware and perceptive and intelligent about human behaviour.

"I always think there is a responsibility to try to do something as well as you can and, with such a fine writer as Henning Mankell, we really wanted to do it justice. I think everyone involved already loved the books and the responsibility to get it right was keenly felt by all.

"We wanted to give viewers the feeling that, for the police and everyone involved in discovering these crimes, it was far from usual, and that, emotionally, it costs Wallander and it costs his colleagues so much each time - there is no getting used to it.

"I think we most wanted to capture the balance Mankell strikes in his books, between telling a great story of a police procedural tale and the sensitivity and substance of being a human being."

Wallander series 2 premieres on Friday, December 30 at 8.30pm on Seven.

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