It’s one of the biggest Netflix hits of the year. Set in Malmö, Sweden, Young Wallender was in fact filmed in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius now has another significant film title to add to its increasingly impressive portfolio: Young Wallander. The Netflix original series – based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling novels about detective Kurt Wallander – was brought to life in, among other locations, Šeškinė, a residential Vilnius neighbourhood that Netflix managed to turn into the Swedish city of Malmö.
According to the series’ producers, Vilnius has already built a strong reputation as a film-friendly city and is especially valued for its huge cinematic potential. The city can also boast exceptional local crews and a diversity of settings and landscapes. Offering an abundance of compelling locations, from moody dark alleys and disused prisons to trendy restaurants, it provides the wide-ranging look and feel that creators were after.
While Vilnius is usually celebrated for its UNESCO-listed Old Town and the surrounding natural landscapes, the producers wanted to film somewhere with a certain appearance and unique history. Šeškinė proved to be the best choice — the buildings are historically diverse and incredibly cinematic, with numerous shooting angles and creative options.
“When trying to find Malmö in Vilnius, we scouted and debated several districts,” says Jonas Špokas, the CEO of Baltic Locations and the supervising location manager for the series. “The director decided to go for Šeškinė based on how strong of an impression the surroundings made on the screen. To make it as immersive as possible, the scenes inside Wallander’s flat have been filmed in one of the flats in the district. A peek through the window provides the same view that the audience will witness in the crucial scenes happening outside, which adds layers of realism.”
Šeškinė was first mentioned in written historical records in the 14th century. From the 16th to the 19th century, the area, then a settlement with dispersed wooden houses, belonged to the Radzwills, or Radvilos, a well-known noble family in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Šeškinė has always been known for its surrounding hills, which at one point in history were used as natural barriers to defend the territory of Vilnius. The area has witnessed many historic events, including battles between the crusaders, Russians, Swedes, French and others, as well as the Kościuszko Uprising of 1794.
In 1955, Šeškinė formally became part of Vilnius and in 1977 the Soviet Union began building multi-storey apartment blocks. Contemporary Šeškinė is an expanding residential neighbourhood with over 36,000 residents and is one of the most populous and vibrant districts in the city.
The neighbourhood is celebrated for its diverse architecture which includes Soviet-style apartment blocks, red-brick buildings, a modernist church, and contemporary offices. It is also home to one of the largest shopping malls in Eastern Europe, a water park, and a hidden gem in a nearby forest: a sculpture park developed by a well-known Lithuanian artist Mykolas Sauka.
‘Goodwill and patience’
“Shooting in such a densely populated neighbourhood is rather difficult — it requires a lot of understanding, goodwill and patience both from the residents and the filming crew,” says Jūratė Pazikaitė, the director of the Vilnius Film Office. “In the end, the collaboration proved to be successful. We even managed to cast a few hundred locals as extras, while the creators, in return for the community’s support, improved the surroundings. We are truly glad that Young Wallander found its home in Šeškinė.”
The show joins HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl (2019) as a significant series that chose Vilnius as its backdrop.
For Chernobyl, it was Šeškinė’s neighbour Fabijoniškės, also a Soviet-built suburban district. Other shows filmed in Vilnius include HBO and Sky’s Catherine the Great (2019), Netflix’s Tokyo Trial (2016) and The Last Czars (2019), as well as some parts of the fourth season of Stranger Things (2016).
To follow the footsteps of Young Wallander and learn more about Šeškinė, Go Vilnius, the city’s official development agency, has created a special website. You can take a look here.
Photos: Go Vilnius
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