May 10, 2009


A Swedish Cop, Not a Danish Prince, but Still Melancholy (MARILYN STASIO, 5/10/09, NY Times)

“The man is an open wound,” Mr. Branagh said of Wallander, whose red-rimmed eyes and introspective gaze reflect his shock and amazement at the bestial acts of which human beings are capable. “His constant job contact with violence leads him, in a very human and nonheroic way, to question how he leads his life and to doubt the value of what he does.”

Mr. Branagh admires the mournful cops in Swedish, Icelandic and Norwegian crime novels for tackling the big social problems that globalization has created in their countries and in other supposedly stable governments around the world. “The Wallander novels are a sort of requiem for a lost utopia, for the lost innocence of Sweden,” Mr. Branagh said in a phone interview. “Using Sweden as his inspiration he writes of the larger loss of innocence for a world that is expanding in so many ways, but is unhappier than ever.”

Wallander’s morbid preoccupation with human suffering — essentially with how civilizations come to lose their values — carries a cost, however, one with Shakespearian overtones.

“Shakespeare always denies his characters sleep, which produces both heightened awareness and a proneness to melancholy,” said Mr. Branagh, whose extensive credits include a celebrated 1996 film performance of “Hamlet,” a film he also directed. “So while lack of sleep may give you intense insights, that vision is distended, leaving you in an altered state.”

This adaptation isn't bad--despite at least one overblown Lecteresque plot--and the opening scene of the first episode--which takes place in a field of rapeseed plants--is quite the most arresting visual you'll ever see on tv. But the Swedish tv version is readily available to download and this just seems like another case where folks ought to have bought the original and broadcast it rather than making their own.

Similarly, speaking of Scandinavian mysteries, sleeplessness and not bothering to Anglicize worthy material, the original of Insomnia is quite good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 10, 2009 11:05 AM
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