Saturday, 30 June 2012

Wallander: An Event in Autumn starring Kenneth Branagh PREVIEW

Kenneth Branagh returns as Wallander. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: Sunday, 8 July, 9pm

Story: A young pregnant woman is seen plunging from a ferry travelling from Poland to Sweden. As Kurt Wallander is summoned to inspect her remains found on a beach, a death closer to home soon comes to haunt him.

You have to marvel at Kurt Wallander's rotten luck. Not exactly the laughing policeman at the best of times, the glum one has no sooner found himself a lovely country retreat to share with the new woman in his life than a corpse turns up in his garden.

'Is this fate?' he moans. Of course it is, Kurt. The gods – or author Henning Mankell – are going to put you through the emotional wringer again. And in this opening first of three atmospheric films, Wallander is literally reduced to tears.

Saskia Reeves as Vanja
At least the forensic pathologist retains his sense of humour. Having studied the human remains in Wallander's garden, he says, 'Thought you were trying not to take your work home with you.'

Missing women and prostitution
Saskia Reeves appeared as Vanja in the last story we saw, 2010's The Fifth Woman, and here the relationship has moved on encouragingly for Kurt, so much so that she and her young son are helping the detective settle into his country idyll.

However, Wallander is soon pulled away into a dispiriting investigation involving missing women and prostitution. Kenneth Branagh returns to his lead role as Wallander, a part that's already won him a Bafta, and he has a real feel for the character, playing him with bottled-up emotions and a decency that makes him hugely appealing.

As Wallander and Ann-Britt Hoglund try to trace missing women who may be the body in the garden, they have a confrontation with the vile Petrus, who keeps vicious dogs and has probably been prostituting his own daughters. It is little wonder that Wallander's need to reconcile such experiences with the normality hoped for by Vanja seem doomed.

Hitchcockian murder in the woods
Petrus taunts Wallander
The BBC and ITV are often criticised these days for a lack of ambition, with acclaim continuing to be lavished on HBO series from the US and Nordic noir from Sweden and Denmark, but while the Beeb's Wallander still can't match the 20 episodes devoted to The Killing, each story is beautifully filmed and directed (this first one by Toby Haynes).

An Event in Autumn is an engrossing and chilling opener, complete with a rural stalker, local oddball neighbour and an almost Hitchcockian murder in a country lane two thirds of the way through. Along with Line of Duty, it shows the BBC's summer drama may be small scale, but the quality is superb.

Cast: Kenneth Branagh Kurt Wallander, Saskia Reeves Vanja Andersson, Sarah Smart Ann-Britt Hoglund, Donald Sumpter Fredrik Thorson, Con O'Neill Jan Petrus, Claire Hackett Eva Petrus, Mark Hadfield Stefan Lindeman, Barnaby Kay Lennart Mattson, Rebekah Staton Kristina Albinsson