Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Miss Rolf

I love mysteries.  I especially love mystery novels or TV series, or movies, that are multi layered and explore the complexity of human psychology.  That’s why I prefer English and European mystery novels because they rely more on the detective’s “little grey cells” as Agatha Christie’s Poirot would say, than on muscles and weapons.   I’m lucky that US Public Television and other cable channels have for several years now shown some great mystery and police series from other parts of the world.

One of my favorite, both the books and the TV series is Henning Mankell’s Wallander.  I won’t write about the books today, but I hope to at a future time.  No, today I’m going to write about the TV Wallander’s I’ve seen and about my favorite, Swedish actor Rolf Lassgard.

I miss Rolf.   His Kurt Wallander was so imperfectly human.  There he was, with, that blond head of hair looking like he never bothered to pass a comb through it,  clothes he seemed to have selected in the dark, and what seemed like a constant hangover.   This Wallander was out of shape and indulged his love of food and alcohol almost defiantly.  Like many of us in middle age he had to deal with divorce, a difficult elderly parent, and a daughter trying to find herself.  When pursuing the murdered he suffered all sorts of injuries and bruises and most episodes ended with him swathed in bandages.  Did I mention the injuries were due more to Wallander’s clumsiness than to any attack by the nemesis?   Kurt also loved the ladies, but he often chose the wrong ones, or said the wrong things.  Yet, there was something about Kurt/Rolf that made him strangely and charmingly attractive.   I was happy to see Rolf Lassgard continue forever as Wallander, but for reasons unknown to me he stopped in 2007.

Maybe it was because Henning Mankell changed the focus of the novels from Kurt to his daughter Linda Wallander, now a  police detective as well.  Nepotism notwithstanding Linda Wallander works in the same police station and precinct as her gruff yet caring father. So what to do with the TV Wallander?  Enter a new actor, Krister Henriksson.

For me Krister Henriksson is not my Wallander.  Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Henriksson is a wonderful actor.   The new series is very well made and suspenseful  and true to the novels.  But Krister is not Rolf.  He’s almost a politically correct Wallander.  Every hair in place, well dressed, in shape, suave and quite a ladies’ man.    He does fail romantically once in a while, but mostly women are attracted to him as the great detective he is.  Not my Wallander at all.  He barely breaks a sweat at the end of the episode, not bandages here.  He and daughter Linda have their arguments, but he resolves them in a cool and calm and fatherly way.   What happened to the so very human Wallander of before?  I’m still watching the series, a very good series, but to me this is almost an accidental Wallander, they could call him by another name, because I see him as a totally different character now.

Thankfully UK television and US Public TV came to the rescue with a third Wallander.  Kenneth Branagh is a blend of Rolf Lassgard and Krister Henriksson in his Wallander – scruffy, angst ridden,  stressed-but  in shape and in control.  I was glad to see the return of the elderly  father and the headstrong daughter,  and the pain of a man trying to deal with both while dealing with a murderer on the loose.  I also enjoyed the return of the Wallander that’s clumsy yet charming with women.   I liked Branagh’s Wallander and look forward to seeing more of him soon.

So Mr. Lassgard if you are out there, know that I miss your version of this famous literary detective and hope to see you as Wallander again one day soon.  

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