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?
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.
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.
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!