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.