We were fortunate to be able to interview Sweden’s leading post-Larsson mystery writers for The Tattooed Girl before they became known to a world-wide audience. And now one of them, “Lars Kepler,” has signed a movie deal for all of his projected series of eight books – even though five of them have not yet been written.
Lars Kepler is, of course, the nom de plume of the famed Swedish literary pair Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril, pictured here, best known for their former “day jobs” as playwright (he), literary critic (she), and novelists and literary fiction writers (both). They had tried several times to do something together, they told us, but “we argued every time.” That is, until Lars (after Stieg Larsson) Kepler (after the famed astronomer) appeared in their lives, as they describe in Chapter 6 of The Tattooed Girl.
Their first book, The Hypnotist, came out last year in the US and their second novel, The Paganini Contract, is due out in English later this year. Both have been Swedish and European bestsellers and The Hypnotist was on the ‘top ten of 2011’ list of several US critics. The couple’s third book, The Fire Witness, is now at the top of the bestseller lists in Sweden.
Now come the films.
The Hypnotist is currently shooting in Stockholm under the direction of Lasse Hallström, noted for his “Cider House Rules” and “Chocolat”, both nominated for best-film Oscars. Hallström learned his craft in music videos (notably for ABBA) and first became well-known here for his films “What’s Eating Gilbert’s Grape” and “My Life as a Dog,” the latter earning him an Academy Award nomination for best director. He has also directed four famed actors to Oscar nominations: Michael Caine (who won for “Cider House Rules”), Juliette Binoche, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Judi Dench.
Now comes the news that the Ahndoril’s second book, The Paganini Contract, will be adapted for film by Kjell Sundvall, another Swede. Sundvall’s credits include a TV series based on the well-known Nordic noir character Martin Beck, the brooding police officer created by the revered pioneers of Swedish crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Principle shooting for the film will start this September.
Interestingly, these two directors have more in common than the making of these movies based on noted Swedish detectives: they were co-directors for the music video “ABBA-The Definitive Collection” (2002).
One more tidbit: Joona Linna, the very Swedish detective hero of these stories, is being portrayed in both films by Tobias Yilliacus, a Finnish actor. While many of us may find that ironic, the Ahndorils probably won’t. “Joona”, the authors told us, is the Finnish version of Jonah, the biblical prophet who is cast into the sea and swallowed by a whale. “Metaphorically, the whale is the plot and Joona remains in him until he solves the case, when he is thrown up on the shore again,” said Alexander. Also, added Alexandra, “Finns represent the largest minority in Sweden and the accent is very beautiful to us Swedes. It’s very melancholic, both sad and serious. For Swedes, it’s a very attractive way of speaking.”
Is there a better description of detectives in Swedish fiction? As for Lars Kepler, he had better start working on those other five books.