There are two bold strokes with which “Wallander,” a BBC produced crime series, is painted that set it apart from most other TV fare. The first is its intoxicating, borderline hallucinatory photography, which will grab your attention in the opening frames. A girl pushes her way through a golden field of crops carrying a plastic container of liquid. A car, driven by Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh), speeds down the highway toward a farm. He pulls up and the farmer points to the field. “She’s out there.” He hands Wallander a pair of binoculars. “You see her?” Wallander makes his way through the dense field of yellow. The closer he gets, the more frightened the girl becomes. When he’s but a few feet from her, she opens the container and douses herself with gasoline, sets herself on fire, and explodes in a ball of flame. Wallander’s jaw hits the ground. He cannot believe what he’s just witnessed. Later on, when one of his fellow detectives suggests moving on from the suicide, since there’s no real crime involved, Wallander himself explodes, “A 15-year-old girl sets herself on fire and you don’t think it’s a crime!?” It’s something of an uncharacteristic moment for the normally subdued man, who keeps his emotions bottled up inside. Indeed, the only time his feathers ever seem to ruffle is in matters of pursuing justice.

But back to the photography. The entire opening sequence is bold and filmic, as is much of “Wallander.” The series is shot with the Red One, a digital camera with a sensor that, according to Wikipedia, “has about the same active area as a 35mm film frame masked to the 16:9 aspect ratio, allowing the same depth of field to be produced in conjunction with lenses designed for 35mm film.” In other words, this camera manages to make some damn pretty pictures – stuff you wouldn’t expect to see in a BBC produced show. It’s possible that at times the cinematographers even go a little overboard, but they probably had so much fun experimenting with the camera they should be forgiven such indulgences.

The second item of note is the fact that the show is in English. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if not for the fact that the show is set and filmed in Sweden, all of the characters are Swedish, and most noticeably, anytime any written language is shown, such as newspapers or e-mails, the words are in Swedish. But everyone in the series speaks English, and with a British accent no less. This took some time to get used to, but after a while the viewer is forced to submit to the gimmick, and it manages to somehow seem a mildly brilliant construct on the part of the producers. I kept thinking back to the early scene in “The Hunt for Red October” where all the Russians were speaking Russian until the picture subtly shifts and they all speak English; “Wallander” simply doesn’t have the shift. It’s a brave leap of faith that could easily have been avoided by tweaking the tales a bit, and simply setting them in England. Clearly the people involved in the making of this series have enormous respect for the source material, a series of hugely popular books by Henning Mankell, the “master of Swedish crime fiction” who, it turns out, is married to Ingmar Bergman’s daughter.

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