Wallander: Before the Frost (2012)
Wallander: Before the Frost (2012), adapted by Yellow Bird, was originally published as Innan frosten (2002) by Henning Mankell. For a change, it’s written with Linda Wallander as the lead character. Needless to say, with an international star like Kenneth Branagh on hand, the screen adaptation has to charge things around a little to make this final episode of the current series. So, as he ages, we get to see a slightly better adjusted Kurt Wallander who finds himself in with a chance of reconciliation with his daughter. If, as in the novel, she was graduating from the police academy and intended to join her local force and work with Daddy, all Hell would break loose on screen as their volatile relationship blossomed into professional jealousy. As it is, this daughter is pregnant and therefore guaranteed to make our emotional wreck of a Daddy go all gooey-eyed as granddaddydom beckons. Helping him make a break with the past, Anne-Britt Hoglund (Sarah Smart) decides to wake up from her coma and tells Kurt that he’s embarrassing everyone by hanging around the hospital, incapable of coherent speech and looking like guilt personified. She begs him to go away, preferably to a different continent but, if that’s not possible, just out of her life.
This is yet another of these woefully contrived episodes in which everything links together to make a moralistic point. So, in this primitively black-and-white plot, we’re into religiously cultish behaviour spilling over into everyday Swedish life with a number of arson attacks — mostly property although there’s an initial attack on swans. So let’s break it down into easily digestible chunks. Our hero arrives home at night and greets the dog who’s locked inside all day. This is because all the women in his life have run off and he doesn’t want the dog to follow suit. But he’s just inside the door when the motion sensors outside suddenly illuminate a visitor. This is the ghostly Anna Westin (Maimie McCoy) who grew up best friends with his daughter, Linda Wallander (Jeany Spark). This would be two loopy teens together. Linda has married without having the common decency to tell Kurt let alone invite him to the wedding. As the other pea in the pod, Anna has been the eternal drop-out, constantly running away in search of her father. When he’s reported dead by suicide, she goes religious and even more loopy, wailing and crying at the funeral, and then leaving home (much to the relief of everyone except Linda). To keep the suspense going, her mother, Monika Westin (Lindsay Duncan) was never very forthcoming about the reason for the final breakdown in their relationship.
Anyway, we have this apparition at his door. She’s invited in and with the tact and sensitivity for which he’s rightly famous, Kurt Wallander says all the things most likely to drive her away. And, before you can blink, she’s disappeared as quickly as she appeared. Except there’s no sign of how she got there nor left. Anyway, minimally conscious he might have said the wrong thing, Wallander calls his daughter and, the next day, she appears, taking up residence in her friend’s empty flat rather than staying with Daddy. We now get into what we might call the meat of the episode. Following his instincts that something has disturbed Anna (it’s the first time he’s seen her since the funeral years earlier), Kurt goes to see her mother who suggests her daughter has begun a university course. Naturally, when this is checked out, she proves dropping out remains her priority but she has left behind a pamphlet suggesting she was attending a local mission which helps the homeless. In what’s supposed to be a parallel investigation, a burned body turns up by a lake. With the power of convergence only a scriptwriter can contrive, there’s a bible in the shallow grave. Fingerprints prove it was handled by a schizophrenic known to enjoy setting fire to stuff. A similarly annotated bible is found in Anna’s flat. Ah ha! Bank accounts show Anna was one of a number of people who gave cash to this nutter for the purchase of a house near the lake. This is all coming together now. So we chase everyone on the cash-giving list as one-by-one they kill themselves for “past sins”.
As we’ve all come to expect, there’s an absurdly melodramatic confrontation at the end where death-wish Wallander walks into a house flooded with petrol to talk the ringleader of the group into giving up. With Anna and her mother now safe, Kurt can turn his attention to his own daughter and, with all the heart-felt sincerity we’ve come to expect from both sides, they end up going together to “see” the baby. I suppose this is a good place to finish the narrative arc as Kurt Wallander slowly rises from the depths of depression to something approximating the level of despair experienced by most of us as we struggle through life. He has the personality to flagellate himself at the sight of the next body or when the dog dies or he catches up with the news of Michael Jackson’s death. Perhaps if he has a grandchild to distract him, he can remain normal more of the time. I can’t say I’m even remotely impressed by these adaptations. What works reasonably well on the page has not been translated into anything even vaguely credible in this series. Frankly I’m relieved it’s over and I’m not excited by the news Kenneth Branagh may be going to make three more.
For reviews of other films and television programs by Yellow Bird:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)
The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden (2009)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011)
Wallander: An Event in Autumn (2012)
Wallander: The Dogs of Riga (2012)
Wallander: Faceless Killers (2010)
Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010)
Wallander: Firewall (2009)
Wallander: The Man Who Smiled (2010)
Wallander: One Step Behind (2008)
Wallander: Sidetracked (2009)