Tuesday, March 25, 2014

101 Ways To Die In Sweden

Recently, I read Stieg Larsson's best-selling mystery novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While I'm quite late to these books, I rather liked the writing and storytelling. However, I couldn't help but think about how, while I've read little about Sweden, every book, film, and TV show I've seen about the country has involved gruesome murder plots. While Sweden has just come in fifth in a ranking of happiest countries in the world and seems to be a very pleasant place to reside, their storytellers certainly know how to weave a gruesome, horrifying tale. The media I've been exposed to makes life there sound rather dangerous and twisted, full of gorgeous landscapes and brutal murders. There's a certain frankness to violence and death which seems different from US murder mysteries and I rather admire it. However, this frankness also makes these tales incredibly frightening and I'd like to share the stories that have filled me with such terror here.

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1) Wallander: I admit that I haven't seen the Swedish version of this show, nor have I read the books the show is based off of. But I have seen all but two episodes of the BBC version and shall never recover from it. The series takes place in Ystad and follows the dark adventures of detective Kurt Wallander. I initially watched this show because of the cast, because there was no way in hell I was turning down a show that had Kenneth Branagh playing the lead and Tom Hiddleston in it to boot. However, I watched an entire season of it in one day, finding the show so riveting and horrifying and well-done (I was also sick with the flu and felt like tormenting myself with grisly murder tales because I was too sick to do anything else). Full of some of the most twisted killers I've encountered, this show terrified and captivated me. I spent the entire series wanting to tear out my hair from the stress and tension of the plots and being convinced that Wallander was going to die, either from a vicious serial killer whom Wallander had uncovered, a criminal who had a personal vendetta against Wallander, or a friend, family, or coworker who was totally done with Wallander's shit. I recently discovered that there will be a fourth series of this show and I am elated to see more wonderful acting, horrifying mysteries, and more reasons to sleep less soundly at night.

That's it; that's the show. (http://images4.static-bluray.com/reviews/3451_1.jpg)

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2) Let the Right One In: Some day I will talk about my ridiculous interest in vampires. For now, I'll have to suffice in saying that I love vampire stories - especially ones that make vampires into clever, complicated characters (that don't sparkle). Let the Right One In is everything I could want from a horror story about vampires. It was recommended by Margaret Atwood at a talk I saw her at and it is certainly recommended by me. It involves a young boy named Oskar who becomes friends with a girl who lives next door to him who happens to be a vampire. There's a heavy darkness in this film from the start, from the bullying that Oskar endures, to his family problems, to Eli (the vampire girl) and her strange activity. While it isn't an extraordinarily gory film, the gore that is used is powerful and horrifying. Vampires are certainly portrayed as dangerous and killers who murder humans for their blood, who make bonds with certain humans to help them survive. It's spooky, full of tension, and plays with the eeriness of short winter days and long winter nights.

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3) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Again, I'm ages behind in having read this book and not seeing either the Swedish or American version of this film, but I was blown away by the narrative style as well as terrified by the utter violence in this book. Full of abuse and assault, mainly sexual and mostly against women, I spent a lot of time reading this book curled up in the fetal position, fearing and hating the patriarchy, and putting the book aside for a while to recover from some of the scenes or information in the plot that had just been conveyed. While I can't really say I enjoyed the book - it feels wrong to say I enjoyed something that was so brutal and horrifying - it was a a very engaging read and created the riveting character of Lisbeth Salander, who has learned to combat the cruel acts done to her with the same ruthlessness.

Overall, the knowledge I have gained of Sweden from reading and watching habits is an interesting one, if a kind of biased one. It seems to be a fairly a very happy place that is portrayed as rather bleak and full of very grisly crime and horror stories. And while these stories terrifying me and haunt my dreams, I can't help being hooked and engaged by these stories and longing for more.

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