Thursday, 15 October 2009

Johanna Sallstrom - A Modern Story.

The BBC are currently repeating the wonderful Swedish detective series "Wallander" on BBC4, and it is one of the few programmes I watch and look forward to. The series is quite unlike most other detective series in that it is relentlessly downbeat, and pervaded by a sense of melancholy and world-weariness; a feeling enhanced by the washed-out colours and the dilapidated bleakness of the locations selected. There is more than a suggestion of an inherent disgust with a society that allows the mundane cruelty, suffering and pain, and the many petty indignities which the Ystad police witness with such regularity.

One of the lead characters is the detective's daughter and fellow police officer, Linda Wallander, played by the Swedish actress, Johanna Sallstrom (pictured above). Linda is a young, fit and healthy woman, starting out on a career as a newly recruited policewoman, who has obtained rapid promotion to detective. Yet her character seems haunted by the same sadness that affects her father, the experienced and worn-down, Kurt Wallander, whose face is a mirror of the toll his job has taken. Somehow, this trait never quite rang true with me, despite her father's character. Very few women in their twenties have that quality overshadowing them, and especially not when advancing well in their chosen profession, and living a full and active life.



It is revealed later in the series, however, that Linda's mother is a psychotic alcoholic and is in a psychiatric hospital, and that Linda, herself, had tried to commit suicide when her parent's marriage fell apart. I was quite in awe of Johanna's ability to transmit this so consistently in her portrayal of Linda, whilst being a busy and dedicated police officer. A rare talent, indeed.

The mystery was solved for me recently, when I happened to read an article about Johanna Sallstrom. Johanna's was not a happy life, despite her great talent and burgeoning success. She was a teenage star of soap operas and films, winning an award for her part in Under Ytan (Beneath the Surface). Yet, she found it hard to cope with the attention this brought, and in 1997 she took a break from acting and moved to Denmark, where she worked in a cafe.

She returned to Sweden in 2000, and resumed her career. She struggled financially, landing only occasional bit parts and faced eviction from her home, even as she was pregnant with her daughter, Talulah. She divorced from her husband shortly after Talulah's birth, and later confessed she was so lonely that she welcomed the visit of a court official, assessing her eviction She invited him in for coffee, as he was the first human contact she had had in so many days. She was at the lowest possible ebb when she landed the role of Linda Wallander.



This should have been a turning point for her, and she seemed set for happiness with her young daughter and a dream role, but in December 2004 she was holidaying on a beach in Thailand when the Indian Ocean tsunami swept in, devastating the coast and, as it turned out, Johanna's life. She managed to save her own, and her daughter's, life by clinging to a tree, but saw many hundreds of people killed around her, including friends and dozens of fellow Swedes, who favoured these resorts.

Johanna seems never to have recovered from that experience, and a naturally shy and fragile person, who already struggled with the demands of her chosen profession, was haunted by what she had experienced and seen in Thailand. Much of that trauma seems etched on her face in the Wallander films. In filming some of these episodes, she must have been faced with many of her personal demons to do with death, mental illness and the tsunami. The shock and distress we see on Linda's face was probably all too real at times for Johanna.

Although intensely private, Johanna gave an interview early in 2006, in which she revealed that she had not expected to live to 30 (she was then 31), and implied suicidal thoughts in the past, but that she was looking forward to her future career, and enjoying life with her daughter. Sadly, her mental state rapidly declined after the filming of Wallander ended, and she was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Malmo.




It was some months later, on 13 February, 2007, whilst on an unsupervised visit to her flat, that Johanna took her own life by a prescription drugs overdose.


It is tragic that a young mother should have been so traumatised by her 2004 experiences, and by the demands of the public spotlight and life in general, that she should have chosen to leave her young daughter alone in that manner. It is even more sad when that woman was a beautiful, gentle and talented woman, who had so much to offer, and so much to look forward to, and who was finally achieving the career success and stability that she had struggled so hard for.



This story affected me deeply when I read it. Henning Mankell, who wrote the "Wallander" books and scripts, was so upset by her death, that he has not written another "Wallander" story since, and swears that no-one will ever replace her in any future "Wallander" books or films.

I feel a tangible connection with Johanna through my own experiences of clinical depression, my appreciation of her talent, and love of her work, and through my regard for the Skane region of Sweden where she lived. I was unaware of her death when I first saw "Wallander", and my second viewing is now highly coloured by my knowledge of it.

Like Kurt WallanderSallstrom should have felt the need to take such a step? It is clear that the tsunami paid a large part in her subsequent illness, but Johanna was already in trouble long before that.

Our obsessive individualism has robbed us of much of the support and solace we could traditionally have turned to, and even the best medical systems are not adequate to replace them. Our celebrity culture places intolerable burdens on those who seek to use their talents, but do not seek the fame and attention that that now entails. Our vicarious interest in their every word and deed seems guaranteed to drive many others down that path, as it has so many already. But, it is not just the celebrity elites that are so afflicted.

All the indications are that such mental illness is afflicting more and more of us throughout society, and across much of the world. It afflicts young and old, rich and poor. It corrodes the families, communities and organisations that should be the foundations of our lives. Is this society and culture the best we humans can devise when it drives so many of us to the brink of insanity, and all too often beyond?

59 comments:

  1. I too have been enjoying Wallander. I am not especially keen on television but for some reason saw one episode and then wanted to see more. The character played by Johanna fascinated me. I felt that she always seemed so unhappy and it was noticeable that she rarely smiled. This afternoon I just thought I would Google Johanna to find out more, and I was appalled to learn she had died more than two years ago. This led me to your thoughtful post. A couple of years ago I attended a funeral at a Quaker Meeting House and was moved and interested by what I learned there. I am not someone who is given to posting comments on websites, nor am I impressed by organised religion. I don't think I have ever posted a comment before, but there was so much in what you said that rang true for me I couldn't let the moment pass without writing something.

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  2. If only Johanna had known how the TV viewing public thought about her truly wonderful portrayal of the very unhappy Linda in the superb series Wallander. I can honestly say that no other programme or film has affected me so deeply as this series has. Kurt's and Linda's characters so beautifully matched each other, so flawlessly played by these two masters of their art. I have not yet seen all of the series, and will buy the complete box set to keep forever.
    Goodbye Johanna, may you rest in peace now.

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  3. I very much liked your thoughtful posting. It resonnated with me as there is a sad history of mental illness in my adoptive family. I came across the Wallander series by accident while teaching at a colege in Somerset, switching on the TV to relax after a hard day. The episode riveted me from the beginning and I became very fond of the characters of Kurt and Linda. They seemed to portray a bond that, I strongly suspect, was felt outside of the TV show too, it seemed genuinely and touchingly affectionate. I really feel that I've seen no other actress with quite the subtlety and range of Johanna Sallstrom and I think it's a great shame that people will not generally see her other performances. Googling her in July I was greatly saddened to find she had by that time been dead for over two years. The sadness of this has affected me in a very deep way and watching Wallander now, I mourn for what we have all lost in her. She seemed to feel loneliness very strongly. I feel that, in death, she may hopefully feel now all the love and affection that those of us lucky enough to have come across her work feel for her. In the Divine Arms, nothing is ever lost, there is Compassion for All, and beauty, such as hers,shall never die. Rest in Peace Johanna...

    Steven

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  4. I agree completely with the comments above. Can't really say it any better myself. I do find it difficult watching the episodes knowing this fragile talent is no longer with us and she obviously had a powerful effect on Henning Markell too.

    Andy

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  5. I just found yesterday that this young woman had committed suicide. I was devastated to learn this. She was an immensely expressive actress. What a sad loss!

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  6. Thank you for your post bush quaker, it was somehow comforting. As a recent fan of the truly excellent Wallander I wondered what resonated in me so with the character of Linda and the subtly expressive portrayal by Johanna Sallstrom. I searched a little, only to be devastated to find she had committed suicide. The hints at her depression rung bells with my own life, though nowhere near the despair she felt, perhaps that's what I recognised in her eyes. I didn't know if I could watch another episode. But I did, and wept a little, but felt at least those shows exist as a memorial to her, and should be enjoyed for what they are, small masterpieces of the art of televisiual drama.

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  7. total agreement what a sad world without such a nice person and such a great loss for her child

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  8. I was gutted and angry to hear of Johanna's death. She was so talented and beautiful yet she left her 5 year old daughter alone, selfish.....

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  9. I also have just heard about Johanna's sad death and heard about it on the same day I watched the episode of Wallander in which Stefan commit sucide, it cast an awful shadow that day.

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  10. Good article. I've only known about Johanna's death for a few months. Deeply shocking. Many of the plot-lines touched on the stresses of life and she portrayed that vulnerability only too well. Her last episode (The Secret, when her colleaague in the series Stefan Lindman commited suicide was so powerful). The series is a fitting epitaph for a very gifted but troubled soul. I hope that her daughter Tallulah forgives her and she at least, has a long and fruitful life.... Alas she also has a terrible burden to bear. I wish her well.

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  11. I, too, had been deeply impressed by her performance in Wallander, and have only just found out (from this blog, and IMDB) that she had died.
    A sad loss. I don't know whether knowing the esteem she was held in would have helped her mental state, but she was truly extraordinary in the series.

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  12. Thank you Bush Quaker. You expressed my feelings much better than I could have myself. I have just learnt of Johanna's death today.

    The Swedish Wallander series was for me the best television of 2009 and the only programme I looked forward to seeing. I cannot say I enjoyed it because the storylines could be very dark but they reflected real life so well. There was an added depth to each of the characters that can only have been achieved through real personal insight from the actors. They contributed so much of themselves that the characters were believable; were real. So it is difficult to separate the suicide of the character Stefan from the real life suicide of Joanna. I feel saddened by both. I am reminded that shortly after the on screen death of Stefan it is Linda who berates her father for not being there for Stefan. How true in this modern frenetic world?

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  13. I can't see Joanna on screen without being reminded of her bitterly sad death.

    How she would have fared in a country like the US, or even the UK, post Thatcher, doesn't bear thinking about.

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  14. I am now reading a Henning Mankell novel ( 1996) and was doing some research on Sweden when I came across the news that Joanna had died- I agree wholeheartedly with all of what is being said about the actress and the gift this series has been to viewers worldwide. I came across the series by happenstance a few years ago on PBS and have not found it again. I am now reading the books that Mankell has written and find the characterization and plot lines thought provoking and as some of you say, haunting- a rare thing indeed.
    Thank you for your insightful and kind comments.

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  15. We have no idea where her motives for taking her own life derived. Was it chemical ups and downs or the abrasions of a cruel individualistic society? Whatever the reason, it was powerful and unrelenting. No one leaves a daughter behind unless they think they must. Of course life is meaningless and absurd, but there is hope in the enigma for some. For others it is a relentless nowhere, a well without water. In 100 years we'll all be at the bottom with her.

    I loved watching her act.

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  16. I had watched most of the Wallander series before I learned that Johanna Sällström died in 2007. This affected me greatly and the last few episodes were hard for me to watch. Previous to learning of her death I had found her acting ability to be so full of underplayed skill and hidden emotion that I had decided to research her career in the hope of being able to watch her perform in other roles prior to Wallander. Through this research I found out that she was no longer with us. I suffer from depression on varying levels of intensity and for varying lengths of time. I dicovered that Johanna was dead at a really low point and her death took me to a low point that I had never been too before and I hope to God never get down to again. It was really hard. I have never connected with many people on an emotional and empathic level but I totally connected with Johanna's circumstances and life and felt so bad that there was nothing I could do to make it better for her. As has been stated on this blog Johanna Sällström was a wonderful talented but troubled actress. There is a wonderful tribute montage on YouTube (or there was anyway) accompanied by the music of Sara McLachlan. Do not watch it if you are not feeling strong. God bless you Johanna, I hope you are with the angels now xxx

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  17. I have read all of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels and I am a huge fan. As soon as I started to watch the Swedish series I admired the professionalism of the actors and looked forward so much to seeing each episode.

    I was tremendously shocked and saddened to hear of Johanna's death, which was tragic enough, but I never knew she had a baby daughter.

    This is even more tragic and is very sad. I hope her daughter has a happier life ahead of her, Bless her.

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  18. I was deeply affected by learning that Johanna had taken her own life during the run of the first series. Like largs.Hibby I've also suffered with Depression and other nervous problems for a long time and the thought of suicide has often been contemplated so the melancholy and fragility of both Linda and Johanna's character is very familiar to me. At the time of writing this the second series has just finished being shown on British Television and Linda is still present as a desk-top photograph and we're left to draw our own conclusions about her death. In the very last episode communing with her picture is the impetus Kurt needs to finally break away from his self-distructive life and to follow a less certain but ultimately happier future. Deeply moving to watch, it seemed like a tribute through Fiction to Johanna that her character is finally responsible for her on-screen father's redemption.
    i thought that Steven's post beautifully and movingly encapsulated my own wishes for her, and I'm reminded of Socrates before his own suicide;'who knows if death isn't the greatest happiness for mankind?'

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  19. Like Isabel, "I also have just heard about Johanna's sad death and heard about it on the same day I watched the episode of Wallander in which Stefan commit sucide". I had dreams with her all night and felt like a really needed to know more and try to understand better (as if there is any chance of doing so without any contact with her...) her tragic decision.

    I am glad I was luck to find your sincere, intimate and very respectful post about her.

    And I hope that all of you (us), who are haunted by depression, will be able to manage the impact of such a chaotic word in our lives, in order to be happier and stronger human beings.

    Kind regards to you all.

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  20. I'm watching the repeats of Swedish Wallander all over again. Makes absolutely no difference that I've seen each of them before. It has a depth and realism that I find lacking in the British Wallander.

    It is so beautifully written, full of subtlety, humanity and nuance, all the wonderful intangible things that are missing from so many English language programmes. And the acting is wonderful, especially by the two leads.

    I'm not ashamed to say that I cried my heart out when I read that Johanna had committed suicide. I had thought she had post natal depression but this piece has given a much fuller picture of her life and the reasons for her death.

    I'm sure Johanna had no wish to leave her beautiful daughter, but depression can literally be a killer, and people in it's deepest grip can feel they are doing the whole world a favour by leaving it. It's like an evil spell.

    It's wonderful to read here about other people who loved this series too and have been touched by Johanna's life and acting ability.

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  21. A beautifully written blog posting, thank you. I think all of us who have experienced the despair of depression will identify with your words.

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  22. I agree with all of the above .... so difficult to live .... to easy to leave this sometimes very harsh and frightening World ....

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  23. Such a beautiful, sensitive and talented actress. I'm so very sad to read Johanna is no longer with us, I'm not sure I can bring myself to watch the rest of the series, not for now. Thank you very much for this blog, it's so thoughtfully written. I wish her daughter the very best.

    Kate

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  24. I had not visited this posting for some time, but I am deeply grateful for, and moved by, the kind and thoughtful comments that have been left over recent months. I am glad to know that others share my regard for Johanna and the Swedish Wallander series, and my sadness at her death.

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  25. I discovered this evening that Johana took her own life and I am of course extremely sad to discover this. That someone felt they had no alternative but to commit suicide tells me that to continue living must have been just too much for Johnana. Suicide is not an act that is carried out lightly, and you and I will never know what left her feeling so bereft of hope (I suspect Johana's experience of the 2004 tsunami was a tipping point, but not the source of her despair).

    I find myself angry at those who have accused her of selfishness; to leave her daughter behind must have been one of the most difficult decisions she could ever have made, and surely not a decision taken lightly.

    I'm not valorizing Johana as the wonderful actress from the Wallander series whose celebrity carries her beyond the realms of reasonable behaviour; rather , I'm saddened - as always - that another human being felt unable to carry on living.

    That Johana felt such pain makes me sad, yet I celebrate her artistic accomplishments in life.

    x

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  26. Riveted from day one (I was lucky to catch the series from the start and not miss an episode) of Mankell’s adaptations of his Wallander books. My wife and I were hooked by the mood and stories from the start.

    Police work must slowly etch away the human spirit of anyone who has to deal in that professional area. The team of actors were special and the episodes were more complex and gripping than a deal of the police pap we are served up with these days.

    Johanna Sallstrom was always an enigma and brilliantly cast. There is not a bad or miscast actor in the series. I was aware that her sensitivity to a lot of the awful things she had to deal with was to insightful that we could almost see what was coming.

    I am watching the series again because it is so good but it’s painful to watch now that we know her story. She’s still there and you know the other actors are aware of it too.

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  27. Yes, well put, Roger. There is almost an intangible presence, at times, in the second series, as if the actors half expect Johanna/Linda to walk in the room, and a real discomfort when Kurt speaks about Linda, just like an actual father's grief. I am so glad they did not try to recast the part, though I think Mankell insisted that that could not happen.

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  28. I am Gus and i live in Uruguay and found Wallander this year and got me ... a week ago saw the chapter where Stefan commit suicide and I fell very badly. This week did not appear the next episode and came to the internet looking for the series and found the sad news about Johanna. I feel very bad ... it was nice, beautiful and excellent actress with great talent and much to give.
    Always remember you ... rest in peace

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  29. Came across this blogg by coincidence. I agree on all the nice things said about Johanna Sällström. Beyond the brilliant actors in the Wallander TV-series the music sound track of composer Adam Nordén, the Mankell manuscripts combined with the surroundings of Ystad and the high class photography make these 13 episodes something special.

    Reading blogg and comments rips up in my memories of the sad fate of Johanna more than three and a half years ago.

    I live in the Skåne region of southern Sweden not far away from Ystad. In 2007 I had my office in Malmö. One cold and dark february afternoon I came across the news that Johanna had died a few days earlier. It took place in her flat not far away from where I was seated. I could not help thinking about if anyone like myself or someone else could have interferred and perhaps avoided this tradegy - if we had only known in time. Now it was too late. On the way home I simply had to pass by the place where she used to live. Walking up the stairs I could not help thinking about how often she must have walked up and down the same steps. The main door of the flat had been temporarily repaired sice it was broken down by the police a few days earlier. The names of Johanna and her daughter was still on a label on the outside. On the floor was the remains of dried out flowers which had been placed there to honour her. At then all fresh flowers was gone and everything was quiet - very quiet. A bit spooky to be honest. This was where her lifeless body was brought out. Leaving the place again looking back at her windows I had a strong feeling that this was not the place to be. Johanna and her spirit was no longer there.

    Due to autopsy and formalities it took quite a while before her funeral took place. It was in an other part of Sweden. I would have liked to be there. She was finally cremated and I think only her closest family know what happend to her ash.

    Johanna - rest in peace where ever your soul is now. I hope all the best for her daughter and her future.

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  30. Beautiful and heartfelt tribute to a wonderful actress but also a testament to how cruel reality can be so divorced from perceptions gained from assessing someone from any tv series like Wallander however brilliantly cast. It also shows that the mind when encumbered by real experiences can certainly make a hell from any perceived 'heaven'. May an amazingly talented person rest in peace! Thank you.

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  31. I've just watched the last episode of the first Swedish series of Wallander. I have watched and enjoyed the whole series. Previously I had seen the Kenneth Branagh adaptations but there is no comparison. It was only as I read the review in Radio Times just prior to watching that I discovered that Johanna Sallstrom had died. The episode itself is harrowing to watch but Johanna's portrayal was particularly poignant in view of my knowledge of her death.
    I came on line to discover more and found this site which has explained how she died. I feel that her portrayal of Linda could not be bettered and any decision to leave the character out of subsequent films is the correct one.
    It is so sad that someone so young and talented should been unable to defeat her demons.
    Rest in peace, Johanna.

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  32. Like the last poster, I also just read in the Radio Times review about the death of Johanna Sallstrom. I'm a great fan of Mankell's novels and of the tv series, and found the portrayal of Linda particularly powerful and poignant. She was so beautiful and talented. There's nothing that can be said, is there, once we've asked why such things happen? I hope she had family members who are taking good care of her little girl.

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  33. I agree with all the above posters -I have literally just found out in the past hour about lovely Johanna ,trying to discover more about the wonderful series,Wallander.It is just so heart-breaking ,and very poignant and ironic ,considering the last episode I have just watched ,about Stefan.Johanna was a beautiful and talented girl ,and I hope she has found peace now.

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  34. A very thoughtful piece indeed, BQ. Such a wonderful series, such a sad, tragic, story. Do we know what has happened to her daughter?

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  35. Lets celebrate her legacy as an actress.

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  36. Now I understand where that depth of raw emotion came from...

    How especially poignant as I'd only recently seen the last episode where Stefan commits suicide. How difficult it must have been for her to do that scene...

    Thank you for a very very touching blog on Johanna Sällström

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  37. I agree that the sensitive characterisation and nuanced acting in the Swedish Wallander is of the highest order as are the production values. I worked in Skane from 1978 until 1980. The seascapes,landscapes,industrial and small town settings perfectly evoke the region. We also get a glimpses of the outside world over the water to which Johanna escaped in real life. The trilogy of Kurt,Stefan and Linda is at times gut wrenching; all three so sensitively acted. Linda berating her dad that Stefan only wanted him to listen is unbearable. Johanna interpretation of Mankell's words at the violent loss of a previous boyfriend and soulmate could be a description of herself in real life as she delineates with her emotion an orchid difficult to cultivate but rewarding tender nurture with the most beautiful flower. Johanna was a unique actor and human being whose life was one of tragic intensity. We should be thankful for such talents even if we cannot always guard them.

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  38. SYLVIA said...
    For a young mother to want to "Leave the party" so soon in her life, and to leave behind her little girl, shouts of torment beyond any of our understanding. I don't agree with a comment written above to the effect that she was "selfish." Walk a mile in the shoes of someone crippled with depression, and then comment, please. It's only since people like Stephen Fry have spoken up about how depression can be as debilitating as a physical illness, that people are starting to respect those who suffer from it. This kid saw loved ones die in the Tsunami, and saved herself and little Tallulah by clinging to a tree as she was overwhelmed by the deluge. To save a child and leave her some time down the line is not a selfish act. It is torment. Poor Johanna, to feel that the world, and her little girl, were better off without her. Not surprisingly her co-star Krister Henriksson has stated he does not want to play Kurt Wallander any more. This was a most beautifully subtle, under written piece, with the landscape of Skane playing as much of a role as its talented, thoughtful cast of actors. This young woman is a great loss not only to her family and fellow cast members, but also to the world of theatre and television. A talent and intelligence beyond her years. Tragic.

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  39. you know,during our lives we can hear about things or see things that have little or no effect on us,and then one day you can hear about something that can have a deep and profound affect upon you and change your life forever.such were my feelings when i heard about the passing of johanna.i never knew her personally,but having seen her in many of her films and lately in the wallander series,i feel i knew her as a very fine actress.from the information i have managed to glean from the internet etc,it is apparent to me that johannahad a number of problems in her life.i can well under stand her depressive
    illness having been down the same road myself.it is a desperate dark place to be in,one can hardly imagine how she was able to pursue her career,raise tallulah,and all the other problems that present day life can put on all of us.i feel so desperately sad that we have all failed her as im sure that anyone that has written a blog, had they known her would have done anything they could to have helped her.i have a daughter the same age as tallulah,and every day when i look at her,i think of johanna and her baby.you know we have to ask ourselves why she decided to do what she did ?It seems strange to me that some of the scenes she portayed as linda in the wallander series, seemed to reflect situations she had in her personal life.i know she has been gone from us for some time now ,but im sure our feelings for her are just as raw as when we first heard of her passing,and i find the blog posted by claus particularly moving.i find it comforting to be able to leave messages and flowers for johanna on the findagrave website.rest in peace johanna,im sure in the eyes of you family,and all of us that miss you,you will never be forgotten.

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  40. @ Norman As far as I know, Talulah lives with her father, Johanna's ex-husband Albin.

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  41. I just found out about Johannas suicide after watching many of the Wallander series featuring her. I was, to say the least, shocked. It never ceases to amaze me how someone with so much to live for can have so much pain and feel that suicide is the way out AND especially with a young child. This is really a sad way to end this year. I just hope in death, she found the peace she could not find in life.

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  42. I'm wondering if last night's 'new' Wallander was the last one. Difficult to see how it come back from there.

    Does anyone know when they're repeating the second series?

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  43. That should be '...how it *can* come back from there.'

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  44. Oh the horror. I have just read of Johanna's death today.

    I have been watching the Wallander series on MHZ here in Chicagoland, and found it truely poignant. I am in my 50's, but only recently discovered half my heritage is from an island in the Baltic not far from Malmo and Ystad. That intrigued me more regarding the plot lines in the Wallander series and the excellent portrayal by all the Sweedish actors of the original Wallander series. I could see much of this in my father. Part of the reason I did not discover my heritage til of late, was the poor relationship between my dad and his dad - a Chicago Police Detective. A world away, and human nature repeats.

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  45. 2010 was "Wallander" year and I became fascinated by Johanna's sad story especially after reading all 10 novels the fact that the character of Linda Wallander and the reality of Johanna Sällström were inextricably linked. Watching both series of Wallander in 2010 (Saturday night on BBC4 took up half the year!) the overiding feeling is that you are watching something more than the average police drama. Johanna Sällström leaves an imprint on Series 1, more than that she dominates Series 1.Before the Frost,The Darkness, Mastermind,The Container Lorry, Blood Brothers and The Secret all exceptional performances and all contain scenes where reality meet fiction.For me there are 2 scenes that make the spine tingle- in Blood Brothers at the end where Kurt & Linda sit in the car on a frozen beach where Kurt describes "an orchid - a flower that's hard to look after but very beautiful when it blooms.....You had the strength to pull yourself out of the darkness and now you're in bloom" and in The Darkness where Linda is on the beach after sailing discusing her unhappy childhood and says "...and how much better things would be if I wasn't around....."

    As has been discussed on this excellent blog in previous posts, Johanna's/Linda's presence hangs over series 2 with even little details like Svartman naming one his daughters Linda. The scene where Kurt/Krister looks at Linda/Johanna's photo on the desk in the final episode caught my breath when I first saw it.Knowing the back story it's one of the most moving scenes I've ever seen on film.

    If Johanna's final performances were run of the mill, say as a bartender, a cook, a housewife, then her passing may have been noticed and then quietly forgotten.But no - one of her final works was playing a character that suffered depression, who loved and lost, who had tried to commit suicide. Surely the line between reality & fiction has never been so blurred.

    But Johanna Sällström was much more than Wallander-I've watched her Guldbagge (equivalent to BAFTA/OSCAR) winning performance in Under Ytan (Beneath the Surface) on Youtube.You don't have to understand Swedish to see the raw (almost too real) emotion in that film.There is an expression in sport,"leave everything on the field" where somebody gives every ounce of their effort/skill in a performance. Watching Johanna Sällström gives an impression of an actor who gave everything they had on the screen.

    There is a modern trend for memorial eulogy through forums,facebook,twitter,etc. by people who didn't know the deceased personally. This is different somehow. I have been online for 10 years and never contributed to any forum before, I don't get excited by much, the world contains few treasures, this is the age of the "celebrity" but Johanna's story transcends above the norm. It moves in a way difficult to describe.

    To compound the sadness, and to add another twist, comes the story of fellow Swedish actor Emil Forselius.Born in 1974 (only a month older than Johanna) ,he won a Guldbagge award on the same night as Johanna in 1998, he appeared in Wallander S2 episode The Collector (as the ex-boyfriend of Isabelle), he also had a small child like Johanna but he too tragically committed suicide in March 2010. There is a photo on-line of Johanna & Emil together after receiving their Guldbagge awards - both aged 23 with life ahead of them.....

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  46. I'm a bit confused now. BBC is starting repeats of Series 2 tonight (at last!) and there's no Linda in this episode. Then I realised that it's a 2009 series, so she was obviously gone by then. But then, I thought she'd made two series. Hmmm... can you clarify please?

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    1. lots of the European TV programs, only made a few episodes per season. Not like the 20 or so episodes per season we get here in America.

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  47. To read comments continuing to being posted on your beautiful "obituary", years after it was written, is proof of how Johanna continues to touch lives with her performance. And how your thoughts on a society built on individualism and celebrity fascination resonate with so many more. I guess, her death (and your post) has brought people closer .. people who have commented on here and the hundreds of thousands more who have read it. Peace.

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  48. Tony said . . .

    Toby, you've said everything I really need to say about Johanna Sallstrom's life and death, and her playing of Linda; and so have all the other posters (is this the right word - this is the first timed I've blogged ?? - and I find the technical language very peculiar). Thank you Bush Quaker for your life and death story of Johanna.

    I'm writing this piece because yesterday evening I watched the penultimate episode of the Series 2 Wallander on BBC4. I know most people don't rate this second series as highly as the first, in which Johanna played Linda, and I don't want to get into this arguement. But I must say I was much tensed by the emerging story of Isabelle's unsavory past, and much moved by the closing scene where Kurt forgives her, and she retires along the beach with Pontus. Yes, I realise Isbelle has gradually and partially taken the place of Linda in Kurt's life, and I know that this is only a make-believe of what happened to Johanna and Krister Henriksson in real life. Nevertheless I could not get the tragic image of Johanna out of my sensations as I watched and listened to Isabelle - Nina Zinjane - trying to come to terms with her past in such a brutal manner.

    When we learnt of Johanna Sallstrom's suicide and departure from her little daughter's life, my wife and I wept in each other's arms. This was not the way we reacted to the death of the usual celeb. No, Johanna brought so much of own pasts into sharp and telling focus (not thank goodness - or God - a suicide)

    Later I copied some of the photos of Johanna as Linda, and one of her holding her baby daughter, from the net and put them among a host of pictures, mostly of holiday places, that litter one of the wall of my study. So I'm seeing Johanna's pictures every day. My wife died of cancer last year. Her pictures are scattered all over the house. Somehow Prue and Johanna come together in my mind and body. They make life so meaningful and so so sad. My life, LIFE.

    Well, that's enough from a pretty ancient Essex boy, so you'll no doubt had guessed by now (not necessarily the Essex lad bit). So, thanks again Bush Quaker and all the other lovers of Johanna Sallstrom.

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  49. Hi Bush Quaker and everyone else visiting.

    I have just revisited this website after 1½ years. Since my original post I have watched the entire second Swedish TV series of Wallander.

    A big big thank you to Henning Mankell and everyone else who so tastefully and reverentially omitted the Linda Wallander character from this second series. To re-cast the part with someone else would have been lacking in respect to say the least.

    As Jamed F posted, the final episode is very tastefully done, with the character of Kurt looking at the photograph of his daughter Linda on his desk and it is clear he has come to a life changing decision, i.e. to live life a bit more and not let himself be worn down by the world.

    I have just watched the 1997 movie Under Ytan (Beneath The Surface) which stars Johanna Sällström, the beautiful Tove Appelqvist and Mikael Persbrandt as a very believable drug pusher/pimp. I was drawn or even compelled to watch this film as I wanted to witness more of Johanna's wonderful acting. The film, as a work of cinema, was wonderful, but again the story reveals the dark underbelly of Swedish society, just like in the Wallander series.

    Johanna plays plays the part of Sandra Lundgren, a young woman whose drug addiction seems to be fuelled by something terrible and evil that happened when she was just a little girl. I will reveal no more of the plot except to say that Tove Appelqvist plays the role of Jannika, Sandra's younger sister. It is a brilliant film and Johanna's performance is all that you would expect if you have seen her in Wallander. WARNING: The film deals with very dark subject matters including graphic scenes of illegal drugs use, but if you can cope with that then I recommend watching it.

    Time to sign off now but it is so heart warming to read all the posts that have appeared since my first one. Finally a big BIG thank you to Bush Quaker for having the energy and heart to create this webpage in the first place. It is a fitting memorial and tribute to a wonderfully talented actress who felt she could not continue in this world and chose to leave it early.

    God bless you Johanna, I hope you are at peace now.

    (from the poster formerly known as Largs.Hibby)

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  50. I liked the TV series of Wallander she was cast in, compared to the earlier Swedish episodes and films starring Rolf Lassgård and the British series with Kenneth Branagh.

    I first saw the 2005/2006 series and episodes of Wallander 2 or 3 years ago, and the 2009 series and episodes late last year, when SBS broadcast them on Australian free to air TV for the first time.
    Although a few characters including Linda as you know aren't involved in the second series, I found each episode to be good.
    Svartman never got promoted though.
    It's a pity that being famous, your privacy, space, if not solace are compromised and intruded upon.
    I read of Johanna's suicide somewhere on the internet only in the last year or 18 months. Her passing is a great loss to not just those who personally knew and loved her, but the arts community, society and the world in general too.
    In the past 10 to 12 years there have been times I'd say I have felt and experienced depression.
    As anyone who has encountered and experienced it knows, it's horrible.
    On two occasions in the past several or so years I chatted to one young woman who committed suicide immediately after chatting to me. (She had been through some horrible experiences) and I learnt from another person she was chatting to, that she had ended her life.
    Then in the past month or two, when I was logged in to Yahoo Answers, I saw a question posted by a young woman from interstate asking: How could she stop herself from killing herself?
    By the time I read her question and posted an answer to it, it had been 2 or 3 hours since she had asked and posted that question and two other users/contributors had posted answers to help. My answer included contact details and web sites of organisations that deal with suicide prevention.
    Hopefully she's still alive.
    I haven't seen any other films Johanna was cast in.
    She was talented anyway, and it has been a joy to watch her performances in those episodes.
    May her legacy be recognised, remembered and shine.

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  51. I feel so stupid. I've been watching the Wallander series off and on for years (as part of International Mysteries on PBS in the United States) and I had no idea Johanna Sällström had died. Tonight I was watching a short on the Wallander series and that's when I realized what happened. I'm stunned. I, too, feel Wallander is an incredible (and painful) show and Johanna was an exceptional actress. It really is horrible.

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  52. The best way to remember the beauty and talent of Johanna is to watch the Wallander film 'The Photographer', in particular the closing scene. This is the Johanna that we love!

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  53. The new season 3 of Wallander just aired. I can't forget about Johanna. Now the character 'Linda' has returned. Am I the only one who finds that odd to watch?

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  55. Four and a half years of comments about Johanna. That's pretty remarkable.

    I'm only now watching Season 1 (but have watched all the other seasons and iterations, including S3). So Johanna's Linda is new to me. What an actor! She was stunningly good in "Before the Frost," and I got hooked. And, like others who've posted here, I only learned recently of her death. Such a loss. Having watched eight episodes knowing that, has affected the way I view her and her character.

    I can't help but wonder what effect these admittedly dark stories contributed to her downward spiral. In these first episodes there are references to cutting and drug use and suicide (haven’t gotten to Stefan’s yet). While the Tsunami was certainly a factor in her depression, did having to internalize the emotional baggage Linda was carrying around have some kind of deleterious effect on an already fragile Johanna?

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  56. I watched Johanna when she was a youngster in the mid-90's, and she already struck me as a beautiful starlet but with some of the melancholic eyes that you see in her fellow countrywoman Greta Garbo. I saw her later on early 2000's as a mature woman already, I thought she was way much older and on her way to a more meaningful career, as so many Scandinavian actors have done. But that was before 2004, I couldn't know what she would end up doing. Didn't see anything more about her in a decade, until today, and now I know why. And something in her work, gave up her inner demons, and nonchalant slacking, not because she was weakly crafted or lacking the skills, gift, but like even Marlon Brando self had inner doubts on the seriousness of their trade. Actors, you know now so famous and once so ill reputed. Personally as Brando said, "a job where you are a professional faker, what kind of life is that" -must have dwelled in her more painfully. She quitted it once before. Who was gonna said, she would retire from Art, Life in this way? Not even Brando, not even Garbo dared to pull the curtain but in meek-lost ways, retiring, going fat or on wine, half way, half faked. Johanna was too sincere to live her pretty short life half way, not half herself but on acting. Somehow you wished to kiss her, make love to her thru the screen, not just for being cute or attractive but to cheer her up with joys all for her to be born again, resurrect her and make her beaming even shinier than the silver screen reflected her back on all our faces, the Public. Bergman would have placed her playing chess with death, knowing very well her game was lost, with each step closer thru her frail defense, as she witnessed in the tsunami checkmate. Death cheats us all, and she tried to cheat hers and lost it anyway. She was more there than here already.

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  57. I too just found out about Johanna after watching Season 2 & now Season 1. I was shocked to see a death date on imdb. Johanna I love your acting & your hauntingly beautiful aura. May people remember you for years to come :).

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  58. Tragic news.
    Johanna Sallstroms daughter Talulah tragically passed away this week. She became 12 years old.
    Our hearts goes out to her grandfather Roy and his family who took care of her after her mother passed away.

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