Sunday, 6 June 2010

Wallander and Balance

The latest episode of the Swedish TV version of Wallander that I’ve seen provided a very good example of balanced story-telling. By that, I mean that, in my opinion, the balance struck between the detective mystery plot and the addressing of social issues through the story was done with great skill, so that preachiness did not get in the way of the puzzle – yet the viewer was left with plenty to think about.

At the start of the screenplay, a girls’ choir is singing under the direction of a demanding woman teacher. A creepy-looking middle aged man comes in to listen. All the signs are that he is taking a close, and presumably unhealthy, interest in one or more of the teenage girls. When one of the girls, whose parents came from Iraq, is abducted, it is tempting to assume that the creepy chap is responsible. But the explanation for his behaviour, and the fate of the girl, proves to be more complicated.

The story-line touches on issues of racism and gender politics, and it would have been so easy for it to disintegrate into something worthy but tedious. But skilled writing, coupled with the excellent performances from the ensemble cast, ensures that interest never flags.

Not every episode of Wallander is as good as this one, I must admit. But I am certainly a fan, not only of Krister Henrikssen’s interpretation of the good-hearted cop, but also of the sharpness of the screenplays.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm hoping we'll get another episode to air here in the States soon!

jfleming said...

The Ghost -recent but not the last programme was the best of the lot. Quite misleading for the most part and then when unravelled, an unexpected but coherent ending.
Compare that televisual drama with the dross that is Lewis or the David Jason [Duckula to me]series.
So much of the television version are mere soap opera. Perhaps Midsomer Murders an exception. More Wallander.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Elizabeth.
Jfleming, I must catch The Ghost, then.

Paul Beech said...

Martin – I see from John Harvey’s blog ( that his documentary for BBC Scotland ‘Who is Kurt Wallander’ is to be reshown on BBC4 at midnight this coming Thursday and Friday (10/11 June). His blog post, ‘Looking for Henning Mankel’ (06/06/10), has a link to an article with audio interview in The Guardian (03/06/10) in which Mankel talks about his experience on one of the ships taking aid to Gaza when seized in international waters by Israeli naval commandoes on Monday last week. Mankel’s views are pretty trenchant. Interesting stuff – worth checking out. Paul

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Paul. I saw John's documentary on Mankell when it was first on, and I learned a number of things about the author that were rather interesting.