KENNETH BRANAGH — HENNING MANKELL — BBC — WALLANDER THE COMPLETE COLLECTION — 2016
Twelve long episodes in this collection, twelve long vignette on modern time Sweden, and yet a complete and unique story in twelve episodes that construct a fresco of life and death in Scandinavia on the west coast of the Baltic Sea.
And yet some unifying elements comes up in this saga, because it is a saga, the saga of the life and old age of Wallander, a cop all his life and an Alzheimer dreamer in his old age. His strong point in his active life was to have a wide vision that could take into account many elements and bring them to some melting point that produced, distilled the truth, well a path, a track to the truth of the case at hand. This subductive mind and thinking is rare and is typical of some kind of mental disorder but that is extremely important for society. Some call it the Aspergher syndrome, others point out some other incapability to be in close contact with people in real empathetic life because of their propensity to capture everything at once and being totally engulfed in that full vision that can be looked at as if it were some haunting hypnotic derangement. Paul Radin identified these people, this small minority of people in all “primeval society” as being the religious, mythical-minded people who can lead their tribes to some supernatural and spiritual consciousness.
That’s what Wallander is, apart from the fact that he does not live in a primeval tribe but in an advanced and developed western society. Now the character is marvelously depicted and his reactions to the various problems he encounters in his profession when dealing with particular crimes are evoked in at least four dimension. But the author is another story and I am not interested in his personality, what’s more private essence. He just animates his character to reflect on our modern world in this special phase in which history has thrown us. We are led by clowns and the soil is becoming very muddy.
He thus tackles some dark layers of Swedish social reality and the picture is not nice at all. He deals with social exclusion and social segregation in a society that is supposed to be super equalitarian and is not. It just paint misery in pink and that keeps the poor or socially deprived minorities, alcoholics and incestuous perverts and prostitutes and just plain criminal minds, in the back alleys where they belong with enough to live on and forget about the rest of the world, provided they are left alone.
He then tackles the problem of refugees and migrant people. Sweden has accepted a lot more than other European countries and that has consequences on the crime rate related to these immigrants and refugees. But the author does not put everything in the same bag and shakes all different stories into one mashup dream or nightmare, the one Donald Trump invented about Sweden as if it were hell on earth, a way to hide the American reality: the highest level of imprisoned citizens, both in number and in proportion in the whole world with the death penalty hanging over the heads of those prisoners who get stiff long prison terms for simple possession of some drugs, etc., the war on drugs as the Americans call it. Sweden is a paradise when compared to the American crime scene, crime arena, crime circus, crime parade and carnival.
But the author systematically shows how crimes connected with immigrants and refugees are in fact crimes whose victims are refugees and immigrants and the culprits are good old Nazi or neo-Nazi Swedes from good families indeed: a tradition in eugenics and segregation and rejection of minorities of any type since the very beginning of the 20th century (at least) since Sweden was the first country in Europe to pass eugenic laws to eliminate these rejected different people from society as if they were aliens compromising the good work and efforts of the good citizens.
In the same way the author tries to unknit some easy trompe l’oeil pictures about motorcycles and motorcyclists, showing that they live on the side of society in a way creating some fear around them and giving force to the antipathy of plain simple people for those self-appointed marginals. And in each of these crime stories the culprit is never the one we expect and the motivation certainly not the one we had felt as true.
But what’s more he also dares deal with some older problems, like South Africa, that old Dutch colony turned sour and racist and that finally came out of the fog and is now deeply engrossed with corruption and crime to gain power or keep it. The author also dares deal with the Russian myth and the Baltic Republics and the Cold War and the last episode shows how this Cold War anti-Soviet paranoia was totally manipulated and generated by the American CIA to make Sweden move from what the USA considered a position too close to communism to get back into the ruts of western capitalism. That’s what Donald Trump has declared in Congress on February 28, 2017: “We have defeated Communism.” They sure have, probably because it had no future as long as it stayed in collectivist tracks. But sure enough they blocked the Soviet bloc into not evolving, not inventing new ways, the way the Chinese or Vietnamese communists have done. And we could think of the South African communists too.
That makes this series a very sad fresco of the world in its evolution after the Second World War.
And then the author follows his character in this complicated perspective and from his own father’s Alzheimer at the beginning he develops his own Alzheimer and ends up unable to remember things, unable at times, more and more indeed, to concentrate on what is happening around him. The lake he is looking at becomes the window into the earth and he has to trust other people to remember what he can’t remember himself, his black Labrador, his grand-daughter, his daughter and maybe a couple more people.
His Aspergian incapability to concentrate on direct contact with people around him with compassion and sympathy makes him seem unable to love, but that’s something that endows him with a tremendous intellectual power and that too is love even if people do not really like those inquisitive people who see too much, who understand too much, who unveil too much the real darkness of our life. We probably could consider that he is the messenger of some future development by being the beacon of our past evils and present sins. And he is not ready to lead anyone nor the world because he is not a paranoid megalomaniac narcissist.
A series then that should make us reflect on life, history and maybe the future.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU