Zingaretti was several years short of forty when the television series first aired on Italy's RAI network in 1999; Camilleri's Montalbano is around fifty in the first book and ages from there. Zingaretti is bald and clean-shaven; Camilleri's Montalbano is neither. Zingaretti looks less like a young Montalbano than like an older Jason Stethem. (Or maybe all bald men look the same.)
In any case, despite the startling physical departure from Camilleri's original, Zingaretti does a brilliant job, coming up with actions that match beautifully what Camilleri conveys through interior monologue and free indirect speech. One favorite example from the episode based on The Shape of Water has Montalbano silently pumping his fist and exulting when he receives a late-night phone call from a political fixer, a call for which he had laid the groundwork carefully by planting a leak to the media. Television can't convey thought and indirect speech except through the clumsy medium of a voiceover; Zingaretti and director Alberto Sironi find the perfect objective correlative for the delight Camilleri has the character take in his own schemes.
Isabell Sollman as Ingrid, on the other hand, is as richly physical and humorous a presence on the screen as the character is in the books. I especially liked her accent, just strong enough to remind viewers she's no native without lapsing into over-the-top Swedishisms. The high, wide sweep of her cheekbones helps, too.
Which movie or TV characters do what Zingaretti's Montalbano did: surprise you by not looking or acting the way you expected based on the book while remaining faithful to the book's spirit? Which have matched exactly what you pictured from books?
© Peter Rozovsky 2009