DVD Review: The Man from Beijing

STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Peter Keglevic | CAST: Suzanne von Borsody, Michael Nyqvist, Claudia Michelse, Amy Cheng, James Taenaka
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 9/25/2012 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: NR | 180 min. | Foreign language mystery | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | German with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

 

The Man from Beijing is a 2011 German television movie of the 2007 character-driven mystery novel from Sweden’s master crime writer Henning Mankell.

The Man from Beijing scene

A violent turn in China adds to the mystery of The Man from Beijing.

Birgitta Roslin (Suzanne von Borsody) is a hard-driven Stockholm judge who is drawn into a mass murder investigation in northern Sweden when she discovers the victims are all related to her. While the police there are satisfied to arrest a local malcontent, Suzanne realizes there is more to the crime. Her quest for the truth takes her all the way to China and the eventual uncovering of disturbing secrets from her family’s past. The plot strands come together in 19th Century America, where the melting pot was not always a smooth blend.

The acting in The Man from Beijing (which was initially broadcast in Germany in two parts) is excellent. Suzanne von Borsody is fine as Birgitta, almost a distaff version of Mankell’s most famous creation, Kurt Wallander: a successful professional of a certain age whose personal life is in disarray. If von Borsody lacks the muted romanticism that Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn) brings to his TV portrayal of Wallander, call it the touch of the Irish. Vivi Sundberg is also terrific as a provincial cop defending her turf. The whole, however, is stolen (dare we say shanghaied?) by Amy J. Cheng, who is brilliant as a Chinese party loyalist who exposes the contradictions in Birgitta’s well-ordered worldview.

As directed by Peter Keglevic and shot by cinematographer Alexander Fischerkoesen, the set-ups and visuals beautifully capture both the closed community of a rural Swedish hamlet and the glass and steel depersonalization of modern China.

Mystery buffs and especially Mankell fans…hell, you don’t need me to tell you to pounce.

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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.