MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

Suddenly, the great Swedish cop Wallander is everywhere …

 If one were to judge the crime rate in Sweden strictly by the number of mysteries, you’d think it was a haven for sociopaths, drug runners and gangbangers. Between Henning Mankell, Sieg Larsson, Maj Sjowall and the late Per Wahloo, alone, more fiendish murders have been solved by Swedish novelists than almost anywhere on Earth, outside the United States.

If American TV viewers are familiar with Ystad’s chief inspector, Kurt Wallander, it’s because an English-language adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh has aired on PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery!,” with new episodes set to return in September. Both Krister Henriksson and Rolf Lassgard have played the melancholic cop, who lives in what ought to be a peaceful port city on the country’s southern tip. If memory serves, Branagh’s interpretation of the character makes him noticeably more brooding and troubled than the one we meet in Henriksson, in the new DVD collection, “Henning Mankell’s Wallander.” His protagonist still is far from being outgoing, but his recent move to a seaside home appears to have lightened his mood somewhat.

Besides having to sort through 13 episodes’ worth of exceedingly disturbing crimes, Wallander’s required here is to adjust his preconceptions about women in law enforcement. He also must come to grips with his imminent retirement and the responsibility that comes with grooming someone to replace him. On his daily constitutionals with his black Labrador, Jussi, he’s on doctor’s orders to count each step with a pedometer. That doesn’t mean, however, he can’t enjoy a smoke or stiff drink every so often.

“Henning Mankell’s Wallander” also reflects a Sweden whose crime rate has grown steadily since the author conceived of the mystery series in 1989. “Faceless Killers” was the first of a baker’s dozen of novels, but Mankell has since added several more stories and teleplays to his resume. Although many westerners have long considered Scandinavia to be something of a crime-free zone, it’s not. As everywhere else in Europe, the steep rise in violent crime has been blamed on an increasing numbers of immigrant workers, easier access to hard drugs, terrorism and vigilantism. Ystad, then, with a population of less than 20,000 people, is northern Europe in microcosm, and Wallander has evolved with the time, if, sometimes, reluctantly.

According to Mankell, “The only way to create a credible character in a novel or movie is to portray a human being who changes, as I do. No living creature is the same tomorrow as they are today (and) we also share the dark sides of life.

“You can see yourself in people that change. But, if they stay the same, although years go by and the stories multiply, it is no longer possible to do so.”

The new compilation from Music Box includes 13 episodes of 90 minutes length each. The acting is uniformly excellent throughout and the police work’s engrossing. This time around, Wallander’s patience and heartstrings often are tested by the presence of a new lead prosecutor, played by Lena Endre (“Faithless”). The scenery is pretty special, too.

As another sign of the times, the first chapter of the series starring Henriksson, “Revenge,” has already been made available a la carte on VOD, via iTunes, Amazon and Vudu. It opens theatrically in Los Angeles and New York on Friday. – Gary Dretzka

 

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas