It is almost impossible to go anywhere nowadays without seeing some new adaptation of Stieg Larssons Millennium trilogy. First it was the books published after the death of the author in 2004, which became a tragic success story almost over night due to its incredible popularity, then the fantastic trilogy of Swedish films, which was closely followed by an American sibling that was nominated for 5 Oscars this past week, and soon a comic book series is also set to be released. So what is it about Stieg Larssons dark and disturbing vision that everyone is finding so appealing? In a minuscule six years the books have risen to a meteoric level of fame. Everyone has their own opinions on the matter. Some love the series whilst others hate it and the best thing is that everyone is allowed their own opinion. But for those that love the series as much as us, here are 5 reasons why the Millennium trilogy hits its mark;
5 - The Films
The adaptation of books into films is not a new idea. It seems that almost everyday a new film is being created that has a basis in a novel or a short story form or even some scrawling on a paper napkin somewhere. But a film being based on a novel does not guarantee that it is going to be a good film, a brilliant example of this is The Golden Compass, which is my mind DOES NOT EXIST. Anyway where was I? So just because it is based on a book doesnt mean that it is going to be good. There has to be a lot of work put into a production, an adaptation needs to keep true to the source material and not just be a bastardised piece of trash that's only intent is on raking in a couple hundred million at the box office. Thankfully the four films that are in existence (Three Swedish and one American) are incredibly close to the source material. It is true that each film had to cut certain sections of the book as the entire collection comes to a massive 1,896 pages in length (to put that into some sort of perspective, the Millennium trilogy is actually longer than the three books of the The Lord of The Rings trilogy combined) which, as we all know for having seen the extended editions of The Lord of The Rings (I know you have, dont lie) is a very very big and complex task. Yet all of the films stay very close to the source material, perhaps not as close as some Cormac McCarthy adaptations (See No Country for Old Men and The Road), but still they come fantastically close and are all very good films.
4 - The Unseen Fourth & The Secret Fifth Books
Now this is perhaps somewhat misplaced in a Best of list as the circumstances are somewhat tragic. (Please note that the following is an incredibly diluted account of what actually happened) After Larssons death in 2004 the publishers, who had the finished copies of the first three novels, decided to go ahead and print the books, raking in a very large profit that they never could have dreamed of. Due to an unwitnessed will and the tight reign of Swedish law none of this was given to Larssons long term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, who he had not married simply because the pair felt the marriage was a security risk. Under Swedish law all married couples are made to make their addresses public and with some of the subject matter that Larsson commented on in his career marriage was not a safe idea. So although she was the love of his life and also rumored to have co-written all of the books Eva did not see any return for her partners dream. Because of these events it is said that Eva is holding back the unfinished fourth book of the series and I, for one, am completely behind her. She should have received the royalties from her partners life work. There is no exception and anyone who thinks otherwise is probably just in it for the money. However, in a recent interview the family of Larsson, who gained everything even though they were not on friendly terms with Stieg, said that the fourth book is actually the fifth books, hinting that they in fact own a fourth book which was kept hidden from Eva. This I find unbelievable and only increases my being on the side of Eva.
3 - The Subject Matter
At the age of 15 Stieg witnessed a gang sexual attack of a girl called Lisbeth but was too afraid to step in and help the girl. After the attack, and the subsequent events involving the law, Stieg approached the girl and begged for forgiveness... Which she did not grant him. Haunted by what he hadnt done Stieg never forgave himself and that is sadly clear in his work. The subject matter found within the trilogy is seen as taboo and disgusting. Stieg writes with such clarity that we cannot help but be saddened by what we are reading. He doesnt remove certain details and he doesnt sugarcoat anything. What happens is meant to make you feel horrendous about human nature and that just shows what an incredible writer Larsson was.
2 - The Salanders
Now I could write a large letter announcing my love for the character of Lisbeth Salander but that has been done. Instead I will announce my love for Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara, the two fantastic actresses who portrayed Lisbeth in the Swedish and the American films respectively. What I found incredible about both performances is, once again, how close to the written Lisbeth they actually where. Yes each performance was unique, Noomi Rapace showed the more hardened side of Lisbeth, a brilliant example of a character that has been through hell and has come out of the other side damaged, whereas Rooney Mara showed a more vulnerable side of a girl struggling just to live another day. An honorable mention goes out the the three directors of the films as, without them, we probably would not have seen the Salanders in all of their glory.
1 - Stieg Larsson
And the number one reason why I love the Millennium trilogy is because of the man himself, Mr Stieg Larsson. Tragically dying of a heart attack in 2004 Stieg never got to see what a phenomenon his work has actually become. I have already stated why I like him so much but I will again. He was a fantastic writer and these days that is something very hard to find. Amid the mediocre material that is getting spewed out for the sake of money the Millennium trilogy stands tall as a collection of books that was written to make a point. To make the reader feel something as they turn each page and not to sell a stupid idea to frustrated teen girls. Stieg Larssons books stand proud in my collection and they will be something that I will read again and again and again.