Larsson’s Story: Better read than seen

Am I too late to be obsessed with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Is there anybody out there still interested to listen about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Whatever.

I am experiencing Larsson’s fever. To cure such fever, I need to write all my thoughts to my heart’s content about the story that had been part of my summer. They say when you’re done reading a book, it’s like losing a friend. Like losing a loved one, it is hard to move on, especially when you think about Larsson gone forever. You need to talk about it all over again just to lessen the burden of losing someone.

Probably by now, you must have watched the film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you haven’t, read the book first.

I highly recommend to read the book first before you watched the movie. For one reason, you will not have any feelings towards the film. You will not feel betrayed if the movie does not meet your expectation. Or, you will not learn to like it, the way people who have read the book first. You’ll just feel neutral. Why?

First, if you are not listening carefully to the dialogues of the characters, you might get lost in the story. The book is heavy in dialogue, same with the movie. It’s about digging facts. This means if you are not paying much attention to some boring movie scenes like Salander browsing her computer or Blomkvist browsing the pictures, you might not be able to understand the story.

Second, it is not as thrilling as the book. When you read a mystery novel, you end up saying, “I knew it! ” or you might say,” I should have known.” Because a 158-minute film cannot include everything found on the book, it does not mentally torture you with a number of motives, prospects, or evidence. You don’t feel like guessing at all.

Third, the film adaptation does not tell you much of how deep the partnership of Blomkvist and Salander is. Blomkvist and Salander spend a lot of time together in the book. They have long walks. They sit in the garden. They have coffee and sandwich. It is quite understandable that any director will choose to leave these details out. But these little moments in the book can make you feel that you’ve known Blomkvist and Salander for a long time.

Fourth, you will not get to know Salander and Blomkvist, the way readers do. You cannot read the characters’ thoughts in film. The movie cannot make the audience fully realize that Lisbeth Salander has a heart too (though Rooney Mara played the role well). The film adaptation does not  show scenes of  Salander and her mother which I think  is an important part of Salander’s history.

But…

I am not saying the movie is no good at all. I am happy that David Fincher tried to be  faithful to the book. I saw some parts of the first film adaptation of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish version. By comparison, I can say that the Hollywood version fits more to my imagination. Most of the lines were taken from the book. David Fincher kept some scenes disturbing as they were in the book. Fincher was as highly detailed  in making the film as Larsson was as highly detailed in writing his novel. He was unforgiving in brutally showing the biggest moment in the trilogy of Larsson. I had to close my eyes.

The lead actors were perfect for their roles. Daniel Craig looked stern and attractive. That’s how Mikael Blomkvist should be! Rooney Mara is such a pretty lady. But she was uglified in the movie. Did you know she need to get drunk to internalize her role as Lisbeth Salander? For someone who had not been drinking,  it was  very convincing to see her with psychological problems. Her voice also fits to Larsson’s description of  Salander’s voice, as someone who sounds like a sandpaper.  Also, she had a Swedish accent. She had an expressionless face in the entire movie which I must say, that is so Lisbeth. My only problem with Rooney is her height. Lisbeth Salander is 4’11 tall but Rooney Mara  is 5’6 tall. David Fincher said he could not  find someone who was as short as Lisbeth Salander. Oh Fincher, you should have  visited the Philippines!  LOL

What the novels lacks, the movie can provide. David Fincher captures artistic shots of Sweden. The sounds amplified the tension. You can see how gloomy Vanger’s  mansion is. The winter atmosphere made the film darker. You can almost shiver as you enter the gates of Vanger’s home. For a story that does not require a lot of action scenes, the cast and production manage to make the story visually entertaining.

Watch the movie…..

But for your own sake, read the book first.

Millennium

Believe it or not, it’s my first time to consciously spell the word millennium with double “l” and double “n.” Believe it or not, I finished the Millennium trilogy in a span of nineteen days. I spent nine days for the first book, one evening and one day for the second book, three days for the last book. If I read the trilogy straight, I can finish it within two weeks.

I am a slow reader. Oftentimes, I read and pause then resume reading. With Stieg Larsson’s novel, it was hard  to stop reading. I felt like I would miss a lot of events if I took a pause. My heart was pounding as I turned each page.

I read the Millennium trilogy like a mad man. I was exhausted after reading the novels  that I had to gather myself to write this post. I was sleep-deprived and eating was my least priority. Each novel contains around 700 pages.  It was not only the length that made me tired, the issues raised and the images were nerve-wracking. I suffered when Lisbeth Salander suffered. I fought with Mikael Blomkvist when she needed justice. On one occasion I was reading a novel when someone called out my name outside my window.  I screamed out loud.  I came back to my senses. The person knocking on my door was no murderer or any villainous character from the book.

Like a Last Song Syndrome,  the story flashes back on my head every now and then. I can write three more blog posts about the trilogy. My blog posts would be Lisbeth Salander and I,  The Women in Larsson’s novels, and Millennium: Movie Versus Book(But they would sound redundant)

I really want to discuss further the intricacies of the  trilogy. But I cannot do that without giving spoilers.  Hence, I  will not spill  the beans.  Let this review be superficial that cannot be sufficient enough to describe the actual experience in reading the novels  or  to commend a great storyteller.

All his books have complex plots. They have subplots in between. Within a novel, there are like two mysteries or more to unlock.  It is action-packed. For every chapter, you will discover something new or something distracting.

More than anything, it touches violence against women. On The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Larsson included some facts about women in the military and domestic violence. You can say that Larsson is a feminist. Interviews from the press stated that Lisbeth Salander is a modern day feminist. But  I will not agree that reading the Millennium series  is enjoyable  for feminists. I would love to see men who hate women get punished but I would not be happy to know a man with principles sleeps with every woman he meets.

If there’s one word to describe Larsson and his works , it is “intelligent.” We always assume that a person who can make a published novel is intelligent. But Larsson is way beyond that. He weaves a story like no other. His brain is big enough to accommodate all these interconnections between national security, espionage, government, women, and simple crimes. He can teach you how to hack, how to  make false identity and the basics of self-defense.

Aside from the mysteries, Larsson  describes  friendship and trust in odd circumstances.  You’ll probably not find romance or love in the series. But you’ll find a special kind of partnership, friendship.

In his novels, there is no black and white and evil perhaps may be permissible. Lisbeth Salander has a different moral code. You question  how you define justice. Do you let the authorities deliver justice?  Or is it more fulfilling to take the role of God and punish those who need to pay?

By the end of the book, you ponder upon the ideas behind the story. Lisbeth  Salander is a product of dysfunctional system in the society. You wonder how many  Lisbeths are there in the world who are wrongfully judged and mistreated.

Just a short preview on what it’s like reading each book

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo

Let me begin by saying that it is the best book among the three though I love the three books equally. For one reason, this book can stand alone.  As what I said, it has everything: violence, sex, rape, ethics, morality and corruption. This is the time you can decide if you want to read the next book or be satisfied with this. If you don’t like the first book, I doubt if you will like the second or the third.

This is time when you change your perception of  ideal fictional heroes as you meet  investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and legally incompetent  researcher Lisbeth Salander.  I happen to like them a lot that I cannot let go of  Lisbeth and Mikael.  I have developed some close attachment in these characters. This has driven me to read the next book, The Girl who Played with Fire

The Girl who Played with Fire

This is the most unsatisfying book among the three that you are compelled to read the last book. There are so many holes to be filled yet it is the thickest among the three. I think Larsson purposely left the holes for the readers to look forward for his third book. I felt like Larsson could have used more of his lesser-known characters in this book. It has the same themes with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but this time politics is involved. Less sex but filled with violence  which was unbearable to imagine (yet  I managed to read through them). My favorite scene is how Lisbeth Salander survived in a life-threatening situation.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s nest

This book is about conspiracy. At this point,  justice is achieved. Mikael Blomkvist becomes the hero of the book. The common complaints I hear from people who read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are: there are too many names. It’s confusing and makes you dizzy. Well, brace yourself! The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest has more names and is the most confusing of all. There are so many connections that are difficult to trace. He also incorporated some real facts such as  the past Swedish prime ministers.

There are rumors that Larsson wrote the fourth book. Though the third book ended well, there can be a lot of possibilities on what can happen next to the protagonists. With a journalist as your main character, he can always be in search for exposé. With a very introvert and secretive character, there will always be excitement to see changes in her life.  I also find some of the secondary characters promising to be featured in future novels.

I arrive at the saddest moment of a reading experience. It is knowing that you  have nothing  to look forward from the author.  They say he left his fourth book unfinished and he had the intention of having ten books in Millennium series. They say his long-time partner might continue his series or some new writer has to finish. But I feel cheated if another writer  will continue his series. I believe before he started writing, he had already prophesied the fate of Millennium. No one knows about Mikael and Lisbeth more than the author.

Stieg Larsson, please come back to life. You have an unfinished business.  I wish you have lived long enough, the way your characters have lived.