I meant to post this article a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been very bad at updating my blog recently. The BBC is showing an adaptation of one of Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels tonight. Mankell is one of my favourite crime fiction writers, so here are a few random thoughts (no spoilers!):
They’ve started with Sidetracked, the fifth novel in the series. Probably a good choice — it’s the most critically acclaimed. The first in the series, Faceless Killers, is arguably the weakest Wallander novel so would not be a good choice if the production company is hoping to have a series commissioned.
Rather than try to compress the whole novel into a 90 minute show, the BBC has wisely made it into a mini-series. This is an excellant choice as it’s quite a twisty, turny story, and needs a bit of time devoted to it.
Kenneth Brannagh will probably turn out to be an excellant choice of actor to play Kurt Wallander.
I wonder if they relocate the novels from Sweden to the UK? I hope not. But if not, I wonder how they deal with the fact that at certain points in many of the novels, Wallander is required to speak English, a language in which he is not particularly fluent. (Accents, a la ‘Allo ‘Allo?)
Anyway, I’ll certainly be watching tonight!
Update: So it seems that it was a whole novel in a 90 minute show. The next two episodes will be different novels. Obviously when you shoehorn quite a complex plot into an hour and a half, some things are left out, but I think the general gist of the story was caught well, and Mankell’s atmospherics were captured beautifully.
Airing the fifth novel first also requires a little bit of creative continuity. For example, in this episode, Kurt Wallander and his wife have agreed to a trial separation, even though they had already divorced in the first novel. Overall, the adaptation was, I’d say, a success.