The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—the Swedish movie version of the Swedish book

I was reluctant to plunk down eight dollars to see the American adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a book I recently read in anticipation of the film’s release, when I discovered that I could watch the 2009 Swedish version on Netflix’s instant streaming for free instead. So that’s what my boyfriend and I did.

We both read the first book* (I also read the second book and hated it, although I adored the first), so we were prepared for the inexorable scenes of explicit sexual abuse we knew we’d have to sit through. Thankfully, the movie went easy on us, but let me tell you—swearing and vile threats might not come off as bad in a foreign language, but the sound of people having sex is unmistakably universal.

I found it hilarious how the movie made Blomkvist look like a super researcher/cold case detective genius because every montage of him scouring archives and rifling through photos made it look like he just eats a sandwich and drinks coffee,** follows that with ten minutes of mystery solving, and then calls it a day as a woman unexpectedly crawls into his bed and starts getting frisky. Two more days of that and he’s done—Turbo Journalist-Detective, at your service.

But I suppose if the movie had presented the book any other way, people would have been bored and depressed for two-thirds of the movie before the plot picked up. Because while I think author Stieg Larsson couldn’t have done a better job of hooking me with his mystery-crime thriller, exciting prose is a drastically different beast than exciting cinematography.

What makes the film really worth watching—besides Noomi Rapace’s (who plays Lisbeth Salander) performance, which gets a lot better as the movie goes on—is how cleverly director Niels Arden Oplev ties in the theme and imagery of fire by borrowing details from the second book and combining them with details from the first. Stepping in with this interpretation, Oplev made a brilliant connection between Lisbeth at the end of the movie and Lisbeth as a child, a comparison I’m not even sure Larsson himself exploited in the text.

This is Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film.

And this is Lisbeth in the American film.



I still plan on seeing the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film, especially because now I can compare the two versions with the book and because Daniel Craig as Mikael perfectly explains why Blomkist is such a lady magnet. I mean, the man is James Bond.

Have you seen either or both of these films? Which did you like better?

*I haven’t gotten around to the third book, but people seem to like it the most. Anyone disagree?

**Ever notice how often people are consuming these two food items in the books? Someone told me it’s a Swedish thing.

10 thoughts on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—the Swedish movie version of the Swedish book

  1. bibliopirate

    I’ve read the book and seen both of the movies, it has been awhile since I’ve seen the Swedish film so I don’t think I can compare the two. I will say the American version was one of the best films I’ve seen in a theater in quite a while.

    1. Stephanie

      Wow, that’s pretty high praise—unless there’s really been nothing good in theaters, which is always possible nowadays ;) I did read one review of the American version that commended the actress for her portrayal of Lisbeth, but Noomi Rapace was awesome in the Swedish film.

  2. Tyler E.

    I’ve never read the books, but I saw the American version recently, which was pretty good. I thought the action, direction, art style, etc. was all solid. There were a few anomalies (why does Daniel Craig do weird things with his glasses? Why does a certain character leave the door to his torture chamber open?), but it was definitely worth seeing overall!

  3. jude

    I just put the Swedish version on hold at my library. I’ve never read the books and am a little concerned about the sexual abuse. Hope I can handle it.

    1. Stephanie

      I was extremely worried about that, too, but it’s not as bad as you might think. And the movie gets it done with fairly quickly. Let me know how you felt about it if you do watch it, and thanks for stopping by!

  4. Alu

    Hi! I actually prefered the second book, thought the second swedish movie totally sucks… The first one was good. Still haven’t seen the american version.

    1. Stephanie

      Thanks for stopping by! That’s interesting that you would like the second book but not the second movie. I’ll have to check it out and see. Although someone told me Noomi Rapace’s performance just gets better and better. What do you think?

  5. alkgrace

    I read all 3 books, and agree the 2nd one isn’t great. I did like the 3rd, although not as much as the 1st. My problem with the books is that you can totally tell it was written by a man – it’s so hypersexualized. I didn’t think it was totally necessary to give us the sexual background on EVERY character. Curious to see if either movie is the same.

    1. Stephanie

      Haha so true! My gripe is that all the women Blomkvist sleeps with are dominant in the bedroom. It’s like, yes, plenty of women are like that. It’s good he’s acknowledging it. But at the same time, what about all the women who are passive or like to be submissive during sex? There’s no problem with that, either. At the same time he’s trying to be more realistic about women’s sexuality, he’s also being unrealistic!

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