They saved the best until last. Last night’s Wallander was a worthy end to the series. The story was an improvement on some of the previous ones in the series. It had real pace – and a climax that gripped. I won’t give too much away about the plot as not everyone will have caught up with it yet. However it’s no secret that this was Wallander’s last bow: how much long could Wallander conceal the progress of his dementia? This strand was just as tense as the unravelling of the crime and I thought it was handled very well. It was a perfectly judged performance from Krister Hendriksson – what a wonderful actor he is – supported by a terrific cast, especially Charlotta Jonsson as Linda. The end was touching, undeniably bleak and yet not without its consolations.
Next week it’s back to Sicily and Montalbano. Lovely . . .
I’d been looking forward to watching the Swedish version of Wallander on Saturday evening on BBC 4 and there was a lot to enjoy. I love the setting: the rolling landscape, the coastline and the old parts of Ystaad. It’s beautifully filmed. The acting is excellent. Krister Henriksson is a fine actor and though he wasn’t orginally my idea of Wallander – Rolf Lassgard’s much closer in my view – I have come accept him in the role. There were lots of nice moments in last Saturday’s episode – I like the way Wallender slipped into English for a ‘not in front of the children’ moment with his daughter and granddaughter. And the ending when we realise the extent of his illness is poignant. And yet and yet . . . as the story reached its climax and Linda, Wallander’s daughter, is menaced, I found that I was actually a little bit bored. And that was the problem: the stories in these last three episodes haven’t really been up to scratch. They all unfolded pretty much as one would expect and didn’t surprise or grip me. Is it there is so much crime fiction on the TV these days that it is hard for writers to come up with something original? Or am I a jaded viewer? It might be so. I think only the first episode, ‘A Troubled Man,’ is actually based on a Henning Mankell novel, so maybe the answer lies there.
However I’ll still be watching the last three, not least to see how they handle Wallander’s memory loss and how they wind up the series.
Readers of my earlier blogs might remember my admiration for Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano series. I’ve read all those that have been translated into English and have enjoyed them all. And I’ve enjoyed the series of TV programmes based on them, too, showing on BBC 4 on Saturday evenings. Luca Zinagretti is excellent as Montalbana and I’ve loved the Sicilian setting, the sun, the sea, the architecture,the food. But as I’ve watched the second series over the past few weeks, doubts have crept in. Camilleri’s plots are not his strong point, but the books are fairly short and it doesn’t matter all that much. It’s not what I read them for in any case. But the TV dramatisations – last night’s was an hour and fifty minutes – are beginning to seem over-leisurely even to point of boredom. I’ve found my attention wandering. And worse than that is the depiction of women. There are no women at all employed in the police station, indeed, few women in any professional roles and the last two episodes have included ludicrously seductive women, about as three-dimensional as the vamp in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. Maybe it’s the old 1970s femininist in me coming to the fore, but I’m finding this increasingly annoying, not to mention in bad taste. I don’t think this is altogether Camilleri’s fault as I’ve just compared last Saturday’s ‘August Heat’ with the book that it is based on and the emphasis is quite different. The novels are much better than TV versions. That’s often the case. They are such different forms. I don’t think any of the TV series of the Maigret novels have matched the original, though the Swedish Wallander series is pretty good.
This blog is mostly about reading, and sometimes about writing, but I do watch DVDS and TV as well. I have tended though to watch less and less TV over the years. There is hardly anything I like these days, not even dramatizations of the classics. I prefer to hang on to my own idea of Emma, or the Reverend Slope, or the ladies of Cranford. (I sometimes make an exception for Dickens who I feel does transfer to the screen well: the David Lean GREAT EXPECTATIONS is wonderful). But essentially there have been only two regular dates with the TV in recent months: DOCTOR WHO, which we watch as a family, and WALLENDER. I was an early fan of Henning Mankell (Maigret meets Ingmar Bergman) and have loved this TV series as well. Truth to tell, I think Kenneth Branagh is closer to my idea of the angst-ridden Kurt Wallender, but the Swedish series works better as an ensemble with Swedish actors playing Swedish character and Krister Hendriksson does a fine job. The last in the series was aired on Saturday so that is the end of that Saturday night treat and we’ll probably have to fall back on DVDS.
My husband and I both love film noir and we had a season of French classics a while ago, working our way through the films of Jean-Pierre Melville among others, and now we are watching a lot of American film noir. This is in its way almost as closely defined an art form as a sonnet or a sonata or a medieval romance. Raymond Chandler established the rules of the genre. The hero of course is a loner, tough and laconic and wise-cracking. He gets beaten up at least once. There nearly always is a scene in a night club where a beautiful woman in a slinky dress sings a sultry love-song in a husky voice. She is no good, but the hero falls in love with her anyway, and you know it’s not going to end well. Last night, watching Humphrey Bogart in DEAD RECKONING after an unusually busy and sociable week-end I fell asleep for ten minutes in the middle and it didn’t matter a bit. I had no trouble at all working out what must have happened in my absence and following it through to the end.