Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish movie)

Posted by lea at 4:59 PM
From the first shot of middle aged, saggy jowled, pockmark-faced Mikael Blomqvist, I was disabused of my idea of Swedes as healthy looking, shiny-haired blondes twinkling in the sun. The great thing about this movie is that it's so devoid of Hollywood gloss. The Swedish film industry dares to hire actors for their abilities over their looks, and they certainly don't pull the punches when depicting the violent and often sexual episodes which are key to the story, but not dwelt on in the book. It makes for a gripping movie but not necessarily an aesthetic one. I mean, I really could have lived without watching the scene of Lisbeth forced to give head to her 'guardian', and the image of his naked 60 year old body (minus the rudie bits) is now forever burned into my retina. Yuck.

The movie was bound to be violent because the story is so very gritty, but  bringing these scenes to the screen is far more in-your-face than reading them on the page. It's a well made movie for its genre (the music was only jarring in one scene for me) and generally well-casted, but I couldn't help but be disappointed by Noomi Rapace's depiction of the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander. The essence of Lisbeth, and her very strangeness, is in the fact that she doesn't react to situations like normal people. She's not emotional and seems to border on the edges of autism. Rapace's Salander is more sullen and volatile – more human, so to speak. This is a shame because ironically, the magic of Larsson's creation is in her very inhumanness. They kept the gothic look and tattoos, but lost a vital part of her core. Rapace is a fine actor and I'm certain it was more a directorial decision than her own, but personally I think they missed out on something key here.

Watching the story play out on screen, I was aware of some holes in the novel that I hadn't noticed while reading it. SPOILER ALERT: For example, when Harriet Vanger is restored, I couldn't help but wonder why the hell she didn't tell someone – anyone – about the abuse her brother put her through, instead allowing him to continue playing out his homicidal fantasies on dozens of other victims. Reading the book, you're so caught up in the action you don't really question the story. Well I didn't anyway. You might.

Book vs Movie: the verdict

The book. It's always the book, isn't it? Except for Mansfield Park, with Frances O'Connor's charming depiction of a much more feisty Fanny that Austen's wimpy creation. Books always give you more than a movie can squeeze into the usual two hours, and allow your imagination to dwell or flit from scene to scene at will, and not remain captive to another person's vision of the story. In my imagination, Mikael Blomqvist was a bit better looking (perhaps this is borne from years of Hollywood leading men, also the fact that he's sex on legs in the book version) and Lisbeth is more in control. The only one who really fit the bill is her hacker friend Plague, who is meant to be as fat and ugly as portrayed (my apologies to the actor). I loved the scene where he's trying to get her attention while sitting on the toilet.

Word has it that George Clooney is being considered for the role of the American Blomqvist. He fits the right age group and certainly fits the sex on legs bit, but I'm not sold on that idea. Do you have an opinion?


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