If you're a fan of the detective novels of Henning Mankell, then you might know the books have been made for TV three time, twice in Swedish with the actors Rolf Lassgard and then Krister Henriksson in the title role, and once for the BBC starring Kenneth Branagh.
I always liked the Branagh version for its brooding intensity and the stark portrayal of Sweden's landscape (though the Swedies may feel differently). Then I saw the Henriksson version and realised what I'd been missing.
Branagh's Kurt is a lugubrious semi-alcoholic with a string of failed relationships behind him and an angry, resentful daughter he never quite manages to keep on side. He's a mumbling wreck, ravaged by the horrors of all he's witnessed and barely able to communicate with colleagues. In real life, you wouldn't have him leading a walk in the woods, never mind a murder investigation. What's more, the BBC series is all about him, with all the other regular actors playing minor roles by comparison.
The Swedish version, however, is a different story. Sweden looks like a different country, full of quirky medieval piazzas and cosy beamed cottages. Kurt's daughter, who plays a much bigger role (as one of Kurt's own junior detectives), starts off angry and resentful, but doesn't stay that way. Kurt in Henriksson's hands is a much more responsive, loving father and we watch their relationship grow. Kurt likes a drink and lives alone, but he's no dysfunctional loner. He's at the heart of a professional family down at Ystad nick; heck, they have boozy dinners on the beach, wear silly hats and sing drinking songs. He's quiet but a natural leader, and has a flair for dealing with people. If they weren't called the same thing, you might not realise the two series were about the same character.
Anyone watching the US version of The Killing instead of the Danish original missed out and, for my money, the same is true of Wallander. Like good herrings, Scandinavian crime dramas are best enjoyed in the raw.
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