Wallander is a British television series, adapted from Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels and starring Kenneth Branagh as the eponymous police inspector. The three-episode series, produced by Yellow Bird, Left Bank Pictures and TKBC for BBC Scotland, was broadcast on BBC One from November to December 2008. It is the first time the Wallander novels have been adapted into an English-language production. Yellow Bird, formed by Mankell, began negotiations with British companies to produce the adaptations in 2006. In 2007, Branagh met with Mankell personally to discuss playing the role. Contracts were signed and work began on the films, adapted from Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind, in January 2008. Emmy-award-winning director Philip Martin was hired as lead director. Martin worked with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle to establish a visual style for the series. The two were keen to use the Red One digital camera, making Wallander the first British television series to do so.
Using scripts adapted by Richard Cottan and Richard McBrien, filming ran for 12 weeks from April to July 2008 in Wallander's hometown of Ystad, Sweden. The series had a budget of £7.5 million, drawn from the BBC and from pre-sales to Germany and America. Critics have written positively of the series, though some Scottish authors were concerned about BBC Scotland using an English cast. The three films were broadcast on BBC One on 30 November, 7 December, and 14 December 2008 respectively. The BBC hopes that Wallander will become a returning series, in the style of Inspector Morse.
The protagonist, Kurt Wallander, is played by Kenneth Branagh. Branagh describes Wallander as "an existentialist [...] who is questioning what life is about and why he does what he does every day, and for whom acts of violence never become normal. There's a level of empathy with the victims of crime that's almost impossible to contain, and one of the prices he pays for that sort of empathy is a personal life that's a kind of wasteland." In the novels, Wallander regularly listens to opera in his apartment and his car. This signature hobby has been dropped for this adaptation; producer Francis Hopkinson believes it would make Wallander too similar to Inspector Morse, whose love of opera is already familiar to British viewers. Branagh did not watch any of the Swedish Wallander films before playing the role, preferring to bring his own interpretation of the character to the screen.
Wallander's team at the Ystad police station is made up of: Anne-Britt Hoglund (played by Sarah Smart), Svedberg (played by Tom Beard), and Martinsson (played by Tom Hiddleston). Of Wallander and Hoglund, Smart said, "Our relationship is based on this impeccable mutual respect which is all very Scandinavian and, actually, more interesting to play." The team is joined at murder scenes by Nyberg (played by Richard McCabe), a forensics expert. The team is overseen by Lisa Holgersson (played by Sadie Shimmin), Ystad's chief of police. Away from the police station, Wallander has a tempestuous relationship with his daughter Linda (played by Jeany Spark), and his father Povel (played by David Warner), who Wallander discovers in Sidetracked has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Wallander's father spends his days sitting in an art studio, painting the same landscape repeatedly. He is taken care of by his new wife Gertrude (played by Polly Hemingway).
At the time the series was commissioned, Scottish authors Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine expressed disappointment to The Scotsman that BBC Scotland was producing the films with an English cast; Rankin said, "My main caveat is that there's so much good, complex and diverse Scottish crime writing going on right now that I'd like to have seen BBC Scotland pick up on that". Jardine said, "Politically, I think it's a bad decision. I think they should have gone for Scottish talent, and then you should go first for English language authors".
In 2006, Yellow Bird managing director Morten Fisker opened discussions with British production companies about developing English-language adaptations of the Kurt Wallander novels, to which Yellow Bird holds the distribution rights. The BBC and Channel 4 were believed to be involved in discussions; the BBC had already announced plans to adapt Mankell's The Return of the Dancing Master. Fisker wanted to bring a new detective to British screens to replace Inspector Morse, who had been killed off on-screen in 2000. Actors proposed to play Wallander were Trevor Eve, Neil Pearson, Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Clive Owen and Michael Gambon. Negotiations were still under way in 2007, when Kenneth Branagh met with Henning Mankell at an Ingmar Bergman film festival and asked to play Wallander. Branagh had started reading the Wallander books "relatively late" but enjoyed them, and read all nine translated novels in a month. Mankell agreed to let Branagh play the role, and Branagh visited Ystad in December to scout for locations and meet with Film i Skånes chief executive Ralf Ivarsson.
A series of three 90-minute adaptations was commissioned by BBC Scotland's Anne Mensah and BBC Controller of Fiction Jane Tranter in January 2008. Like Morten Fisker, the BBC wanted a returning series that would have the same audience appeal as Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect and Cracker. Yellow Bird was contracted as a co-producer, working with Left Bank Pictures, a production house formed in 2007 by former ITV Controller of Comedy, Drama and Film Andy Harries. Harries described Wallander as "more than just a detective series" and that it would be visually "very picture postcard". The first series is comprised of adaptations of Sidetracked, One Step Behind and Firewall.Philip Martin was hired as lead director of the series, and met with Branagh, Harries and Left Bank producer Francis Hopkinson in January. The four discussed how the adaptations would appear on screen, agreeing that the characterisations, atmosphere and ideas would be difficult to portray on screen. Richard Cottan was hired to adapt Mankell's novels, and delivered his first scripts in February. Cottan changed the plots of some of the books in order to fit them into a 90-minute adaptation, though made sure the scripts retained Wallander's "journey". The following month, Martin began discussions with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle about what visual style the films would have. They agreed to use the Red One digital camera to shoot on, which has a near-35 mm resolution and is not as expensive as 35 mm; Dod Mantle said that the BBC "has politics" about the cheaper 16 mm and Super 16. Casting of British actors, which was done in London, was completed by April, and the whole crew moved over to Ystad to begin rehearsals. Martin wanted the actors playing police officers to know how to fire a gun, so arranged for them to spend time at a firing range using live ammunition.
A £6 million budget was originally assigned to the series, which increased to £7.5 million. Half of that came from the BBC, and the rest from pre-sale co-production funding from American WGBH Boston and German ARD Degeto, and a tax deduction for filming in Sweden.
Location filming was principally set in Ystad. Interior sets were constructed at Ystad Studios under the supervision of Anders Olin, who also designed the sets of the Swedish Wallander films. The main police station set is 500 square metres, twice the size of Olin's previous sets. Mock-ups of Ystads Allehanda, a local newspaper, were produced as working props. Producer Simon Moseley explained that the mock-ups use Swedish words that can be understood by English-speaking audiences. Moseley also explained that some pronunciations of Swedish words are Anglicised (such as Ystad being pronounced "Is-tad" instead of "Ees-tod"), as "the authentic local accent is very strange to English ears and we didn't want to stray into Allo! Allo! territory". Like Branagh, Philip Martin did not watch any of the Swedish-language Wallander films so that he could bring a fresh interpretation to the films. Filming was scheduled for 66 days over 12 weeks in Sweden; each film would be shot back-to-back over 22 days. Martin directed the first and third films and Niall MacCormick directed the second. Dod Mantle was keen to conceive a good style for what could become a long-running series.
Filming on Sidetracked commenced on 14 April on location at a townhouse in Södra Änggatan, Ystad. Parking of cars was forbidden in the surrounding residential areas during shooting, though the locals were used to this, having had the Swedish Wallander films filming there for years. The same week, filming was done at Häckeberga Castle near Genarp. Another castle was going to be used, but the deal fell through. The manager of Häckeberga Castle, which had been turned into a hotel, allowed filming to take place there on the night of 17 April, though guests had to be moved to stables for the night. Scenes set in the rapeseed field were filmed at Charlottenlund Mansion. Location scouts had been impressed with the look of the winter rapeseed. The team from Danish Special Effects had difficulty setting the field on fire. Using the Red One digital camera meant that rushes could be viewed on set, saving time on the already tight schedule. Martin and Dod Mantle believed that the Red captured the Swedish light well, so there was no need to use big lighting rigs. The cheaper filming option meant that the budget could be used on other things.
Niall MacCormick arrived in Sweden to film Firewall in June, concluding in the third week of July. Danish Special Effects also worked on body squibs, bullet hits and atmospheric effects. Their post-production work was completed in August. While the crew were in Sweden, editing was done at The Chimney Pot in Stockholm. Post-production was completed by The Farm in London.Martin Phipps composed the soundtrack to the series. "Nostalgia" by Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker is the opening theme.
Left Bank producer Francis Hopkinson had announced three more Wallander adaptations were tentatively scheduled to be filmed in 2009. He explained that it has always been the intention to continue with the series as long as the audience enjoys the films. After Branagh signed on to direct Thor in 2008, he put his other projects, including the second series of Wallander, on hold. Harries revised Hopkinson's predictions to "Maybe three [films] every two years". Yellow Bird producer Ole Søndberg has said that The Dogs of Riga and The White Lioness will be hard to film.
According to Mikael Wallén, president of Yellow Bird, another series of Wallander will be produced. He told local media that it is realistic for the next series to be filmed next in the summer of 2009 and added that they can shoot during autumn and winter as well, depending on finance and Branagh's schedule.
A public screening was of Sidetracked was given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on 10 November 2008, and was followed by a question-and-answer session with Philip Martin and Kenneth Branagh. A gala premiere of Sidetracked was held in Ystad on 23 November, a week before it was broadcast in Britain.Sidetracked's first British broadcast came on BBC One on 30 November, followed by Firewall on 7 December, and One Step Behind on 14 December. Episodes were simulcast on BBC HD.BBC Four broadcast programmes and films to complement the series; the schedule included a documentary by John Harvey entitled Who is Kurt Wallander, as well as the Swedish adaptation of the Linda Wallander novel Before the Frost, and Mastermind, an original Wallander film starring Krister Henriksson.
The series has already been sold to a number of countries and territories across the world, including TV4 Sweden, TV2 Norway, DR Denmark, MTV3 Finland, Lumiere Benelux and Svensk Film for its pan Scandinavian feed. In the United States, PBS has secured the broadcast rights. It will air as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! strand in 2009.BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, repped the series to further buyers at the Mipcom television festival in October 2008.
In a preview of the BBC's Autumn season, Mark Wright of The Stage Online wrote that Branagh was "a good fit" for the character and had "high hopes for the success of [the] series". Previewing Sidetracked, The Times's David Chater called Branagh "superb as Kurt Wallander", and the series "one of those superior cop shows in which the character of the detective matters more than the plot". In a feature in The Knowledge, a supplement of The Times, Paul Hoggart called Branagh's performance "understated, ruminative, warm, sensitive and depressed" and wrote positively of the design and cinematography and concluded by writing that "Wallander is that rare treasure: a popular form used for intelligent, thoughtful, classy drama and superbly shot".
Reviewing Sidetracked after it aired, Tom Sutcliffe for The Independent called it, "often a visually dazzling experience, the camerawork as attentive to the contours of Branagh's stubbly, despairing face as it was to the Swedish locations in which the action took place or the bruised pastels of a Munch sunset". He praised Branagh's acting but felt the Wallander character was "shallower than the performance, the disaffection and Weltschmerz just another detective gimmick".The Guardian's Kira Cochrane was also complementary of Branagh, calling him "faultless", but was not impressed with the scenes between Wallander and his father, which she believed slowed the pace of the film, as she did not want to learn Wallander's entire backstory immediately. Like Sutcliffe, Cochrane praised the cinematography and was pleased that the ending "tied up nicely". Andrew Billen of The Times wrote, "This distinctly superior cop show is both spare and suggestive, and brilliantly acted." He took time to adjust to Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, and found the warm blue skies of Sweden unexpected. Billen's and Cochrane's opinions of the child abuse storyline differed; Billen believed that it was "used too often in fiction, but here it meant something", though Cochrane called it a "familiar element". In The Daily Telegraph, James Walton was disappointed with the revelation that the crimes stemmed from sexual abuse; "once quite a daring TV subject, now a rather clichéd short cut to the black recesses of the human heart". Walton, like others, was complementary of Branagh, and concluded by writing, "The series still probably won't appeal to fans of Heartbeat, but if you fancy an undoubtedly classy antidote to the cosy cop show, you could do a lot worse." The broadcast had an average 6.2 million viewers and 23.9% audience share. The episode began with a peak of 6.9 million (25.4%) but dropped to 5.8 million (24.6%) at the end. 57.2% of the audience was from the upmarket ABC1 demographic and 6.1% were in the age 16–34 demographic. The average viewer rating was down 300,000 on the same timeslot in the previous week. Final ratings, incorporating those who watched via DVR, was 6.54 million, making it the eighth-most-watched programme on BBC One that week. An editorial in The Independent complained that the episode's closing credits ran too fast; a hundred names were displayed in 14 seconds. Branagh called the speed of the credits "insulting". The actors' union Equity also complained to BBC director general Mark Thompson.
Firewall was seen by 5.6 million (23% share), 600,000 viewers and one share point down on the previous week. Final ratings boosted it to 5.90 million and the tenth-most-watched broadcast on BBC One that week. In The Guardian, Sam Wollaston wrote, "with the greyness, the cold, the Scandinavian sadness, and a troubled Kenneth Branagh mooching around in the gloom trying to figure out who killed these people so horribly, it's all pretty perfect." Andrew Billen wrote in The Times that Wallander and Ella's relationship not working out is conventional for a television detective drama, though liked how Wallander's depression "has grown out of the failure of his marriage and the experiences of his career". On TV Scoop website, John Beresford wrote that the episode "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."One Step Behind received overnight ratings of 5.6 million (22.4%). Final ratings were recorded as 5.66 million, making it the week's twelfth-most-watch programme on BBC One. David Chater's Times preview called Branagh "a masterpiece of vulnerability and despair". He wrote of the conclusion: "a climactic scene that has been done dozens of times in thrillers, on this one occasion it felt entirely believable". The Daily Record named it "Best of this week's TV" though it was criticised in The Herald; David Belcher called it "far worse than initially reckoned. Never has there been a less observant, more irritating fictional detective". Belcher hoped that no more adaptations would be made.
In a review called "Wåll-and-ör – den äkta Wallander" (the title is first poking fun at Branagh’s pronunciation of Wallander while at the same time calling this Wallander version the real or proper Wallander) by Martin Andersson of Southern Sweden’s main daily newspaper Sydsvenskan was very positive to Branagh’s interpretation of Wallander and thought BBC series to be of better quality then the current Swedish-language series of films. He emphasises that not only is Branagh’s performance of higher quality than the current Swedish Wallander actor Krister Henriksson, but the BBC series really understands how to use the nature and environment of the Skåne province to tell the proper story and added that as a person from Southern Sweden he recognized all the settings and they had never looked as beautiful as in this production.
In a Radio Times interview, Henning Mankell announced that he has a new Wallander book in the works. Several Swedish media outlets are speculating that the renewed Wallander interest in the UK and the warm reception of the BBC adaptations has sparked a new motivation in writing further Wallander novels; Mankell's last book starring the Ystad inspector was originally published in 1999.
Vintage Books has published paperbacks of the adapted novels with tie-in covers featuring Kenneth Branagh. The DVD was published by 2 Entertain Video on 26 December 2008. It features all three films, the Who is Kurt Wallander? documentary, and a 55-minute documentary entitled The Wallander Look. Half of The Wallander Look features Branagh and Mankell discussing Wallander.