Which Wallander?

We’ve been discussing the merits of numerous film and TV versions of Kurt Wallander that have been created over the years over at Dead Good HQ and have got into quite a heated debate…

The popular Swedish detective created by author Henning Mankell has been portrayed most famously by Krister Henriksson, Rolf Lassgård and Kenneth Branagh. Henning Mankell also co-wrote the Swedish crime-drama mini series Talismanen where Kurt Wallander was a supporting character portrayed by actor Lennart Jähkel.

We have our favourite Wallanders here, but who is yours?

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Rolf Lassgård

First up is Rolf Lassgård as Wallander. Between 1994 and 2007, all nine Wallander novels were made into films in Sweden starring Lassgård. They are straight adaptations from the novels and Lassgård skillfully plays the moody, sad sack investigator we love in Henning Mankell’s books.

It wasn’t shown much in the UK but you can watch a short trailer for Firewall here.
 
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Krister Henriksson

Second in line is Krister Henriksson who starred in the highly acclaimed TV series that began airing in 2005, the first of which – Before the Frost – was a feature-length film and was released in cinemas. Apparently when Henriksson was first urged to take on the role of Wallander around 2004 he refused. That was until Henning Mankell himself gave him a call. Henriksson was sent the books and after reading, said of the character, ‘I recognised my life.’ This statement is reflected in his brilliantly natural performance. Henriksson is the committed, weary cop; an overprotective father and a brash colleague, but he also leans towards the more sensitive fatherly side of Wallander’s character.
 
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Kenneth Branagh

The most recent Wallander on our screens was Kenneth Branagh. Branagh’s take on the classic Swedish investigator is humourous and sincere. He is the rough and tired Wallander we know and contrasts wonderfully with the young, spritely sidekick, Magnus, played by Tom Hiddleston. My personal favourite, Branagh’s version of Wallander shows the murky undercurrent of his depression and the dark side of a day job of dealing with murders. There is a raw honesty about his approach to the character that I think is very evocative.
 
It seems that Kurt Wallander has such depth that each actor unearths the different layers of the character detailed throughout the written series. Maybe it’s the same dilemma as the Bond or Doctor Who question: Which James Bond or Doctor Who do you prefer? For many it is the actor that they saw portray the character for the first time – or the one that they grew up with.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if all three Wallanders were in the same room. Would they get on, or would they just silently wallow in thoughtful pessimism, sipping whisky to the sounds of opera?

But now it’s up to you. Which performance do you prefer? Tell in the comments below – and let the battle commence!

28 Comments

    I haven’t seen Kristen Henrikkson so cannot judge him, but I loved Rolf Lassgård’s portrayal – so much more subtlety and depth than Kenneth Branagh’s. Also, the atmosphere of Sweden and Swedish life was much better depicted. In my view, Scandinavian crime drama is streets ahead of British crime drama which has become very formulaic over the years although Branagh has tried to elevate it.

    Rolf Lassgård every time. Not just because he was the first Wallander I saw but because the big, tired, ill-looking, sad guy’s overwhelming melancholy matched the nature of the stories and the nature of the weather oppressed landscape. Krister is good but too lightweight in personality and Branagh…well…has the upside that we don’t need to read subtitles (I like subs) but I can watch David Warner who plays Kurt’s dad all day long. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when I read that Mankell had imagined Rolf Lassgård playing his flawed man before TV deals were first talked about. Anyone who likes Rolf can also see him as forensic psychologist Sebastian Bergmann on DVD and also as a copper in several wonderfully miserable crime movies including Faceless Killers and The Hunters.

    Without doubt Krister Henriksson,wonderful actor.
    As someone else said I wish the BBC would do a rerun of all the series.
    Rolf Lassgard was good but not Wallander for me.
    Wasn’t keen on Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal.

    Oh, beyond doubt IMHO. Mr Henriksson is head and shoulders above, some of the finest television I’ve seen. Loved it.

    Just re watching the Krister Henriksson version again on DVD. Wow!!!! I love his interpretation. Rolf and Ken are fine but for me Krister wins hands down!!!

    I have only seen Krister Henriksson and Kenneth Branagh (brief 30 min). I find that when I read the books, I saw only Krister face, so that’s my answer. Where can I find Rolf? Version?

    The character was so well written by Mankell they were all good. My choice would be the second re-incarnation by Krister Henriksson.

    Without a doubt, the best actor was Krister Henriksson, He captured the quiet, sincere and caring police officer perfectly.
    Both my wife and I often felt quite moved by his struggle with relationships mainly because of his own doubts about himself. A very fine actor. Why don’t the BBC rerun the complete series with him in the role again.

    Sadly, Rolf Lassgard and Kenneth Branagh never matched Krister’s performances.

    Henriksson is number one for me, though Lassgard is quite strong, too. Branagh, though I usually like him, is a distant third for me on this score.

    I truly enjoyed Branagh as Wallander. After having read all of the Wallander books, I came across the TV series on Netflix. The Branagh series was uncannily so dimiliar to the books. Excellent screen writing, director and actors.

    Lately I came across the Henricksson series of Wallander. Perhaps because of the subtitles or a combination of my prejudices for Branagh, I didn’t enjoy that interpretation.

    Wish Branagh would do more Wallander!

    I really like this show Kenneth Branagh is an amazing actor he’s my favorite Character The scenery is breath taking.

    I’d like to add though that my favourite supporting cast would have to be from the Henriksson version!

    Each actor as you say captures something in Mankells Wallander that makes each portrayal equally enjoyable. Branagh introduced me to Wallander, then Henriksson and most recently Lassgard. ( thanks BBC 4!) .While in all honesty I enjoy the books most of all, once you get the taste for Mankells nordic noir – he after all introduced the world to Scandinavian crime dramas, all three interpretations have merit and I wallow in them all quite happily.

    Rolf Lassgård is best. He captures the frailty of Wallander with perfect humanity. Krister Henriksoon does a good job. Kenneth Branagh doesn’t come close. Frailty isn’t captured by deadpan.

    Krister Henriksson no doubt the best,then Rolf Lassgard Branagh a poor third.

    For me it will always be Rolf Lassgård. You get a very moody yet heartfelt character with all the charm and swagger.

    For some reason I have never been interested in Kristen Henriksson´s workmanlike performance. So, for me, Rolf Lassgård wins hands down. You might want to compere Branagh’s SIDETRACKED to Lassgård’s VILLOSPÅR. The latter is the better film, the better perfomance. I do like Branagh, though, also in this role.

    It has to be the clumsy, troubled, shambolic, yet very attractive Wallander as portrayed by Rolf.

    I have no trouble with this one… of the three actors, it’s Krister all the way for me! Krister IS Kurt Wallander.

    Rolf Lassgard has best depicted that dark, brooding persona embodied by the Wallander character in H.Mankell’s novels.

    I have trouble here! All 3 bring something different to the character!

    Personally, I think Krister just gets in first, with Rolf, and then Kenneth in that order!

    Decisions, decisons! All three are very good actors. However, my personal choice to portray Wallander would be Krister Henriksson.

    My preference goes to…Kenneth Branagh.
    I’m fond of his personnality in Wallander’s skin. English mood add to the scandinavian spirit is a delightful mixture for the french speaking spectator that I’m.

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