Pinned on February 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm by Helen Jacobsen
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I’m still speechless… This will be a classic! The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first in the trilogy of crime novels written by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson. Larsson wrote them during his spare time, as a form of amusement. However, the novels were not published until after Larsson’s untimely death in Nov 2004. The author never had the opportunity to enjoy the critical and the commercial success his books eventually earned. In 2008 Larssen became the second best selling author on the planet.Now, on to the story:Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist, convicted, unjustly he believes, of libel against a powerful industrialist. As Blomkvist awaits the commencement of his sentence, he is hired by a scion of a wealthy family to investigate the disappearance of the man’s bellowed niece 40 years earlier. Everyone, initially including Blomkvist, believes the case is hopeless. Unexpectedly though, help comes in form of “the girl with the dragon tattoo”, Lisbeth Salander. The mysterious woman clearly has a severe past: despite being 24 years old, her person and finances are being managed by a court appointed guardian. She does however, have a brilliant mind and, as we are about to learn, a powerful will… She quickly becomes the driving force of the investigation. We watch transfixed, as the past reaches into the presence, and touches the lives of Blomkvist, Salander, her guardian, the industrialist and the wealthy scion.The story, as written by Larsson, is extremely brutal (consider that the original, and the very apt, Swedish title is “Men Who Hate Women”). However, I am inclined to believe the violence serves as another character in the story and as such is necessary. I am therefore glad that the filmmakers did not seek to tamper it, thus neutering the punch the story delivers. Though this Swedish adaptation is scripted and directed to the highest standard, the focus must be on the performance of the actress Noomi Rapace. Her portrayal of Lisbeth is shockingly faithful to the text and the actress manages to take over the film with her very appearance.The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of the best adaptations I have seen, ever. I encourage you not to miss it; though do see it with friends, as you will afterwards feel strongly compelled to discuss the various explosive plot twists. I hope Hollywood never touches this gem. I am anxiously waiting for the next two installments to hit US screens.PS: Keep in mind, this film is NOT for the underaged.
Embrace the subtitles: see part 1 of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy in its intended tongue I’m a fervent and early fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I would have flown to another city to watch this film if I had to. Luckily, I live in one of the country’s best cities for art house cinema: Dallas. Yes, contrary to the expected stereotypes I always have to bat down when I tell out-of-town friends this fact: Dallas has a tremendous art house cinema culture. And, as testament to that, we got “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” very early. What a thrill for us.I am not going to claim that the movie is better than the book. What makes the books so compelling are the monster-deep dives Larsson takes into varied areas like investigative journalism, corruption, hacking, mafia, governmental affairs, mafia-government connections, intelligence agencies, detectives..and a host of others. What makes the first book spin is its dual axes of investigative journalism and hacking, personified respectively by Larsson’s two protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. In the movie, something’s gotta give: there’s just no earthly way director Niels Arden Oplev is going to be able to fit all of Larsson’s work into a film of slightly less than three hours.So what Oplev does is strip the story down to its core: the hunt for Harriet Vanger. It’s this case that serendipitously brings Blomkvist and Salander together. In the process of the focus, we lose some of the flavor that is the hallmark of the book, most notably much of the investigative journalism as practiced inside the walls of Millennium magazine. Millennium’s editor, Erika Berger, is but a footnote in the movie but a big part of the book. Likewise, little attention is given to the so-called “Wennerström Affair,” the personal and professional downfall that befalls Mikael at the book’s outset. Indeed, the first third of the book focuses mainly on these two elements of the tale.Similarly, we lose out on some other aspects of Mikael’s character. Mainly, his babe-magnetism. In the movie, he and Salander develop a sexual relationship. [Indeed, it's undertones of the memories of this relationship that drives much of books two and three.] But the movie has removed the sexual aspects from two of the other relationships Mikael has with female characters.Despite all that, this movie lives and dies on one turn: it’s ability to ‘get it right’ with its casting of Lisbeth. Over and over I would to my wife “Lisbeth better be good.” And she’d tell me the same thing repeatedly. And others I know have the same mantra: don’t mess with my ideal vision of Lisbeth. In that light, Noomi Rapace represents deliverance. She scored the essence of the character: we want Lisbeth to have that mix of smarts, hardened exterior, quirky beauty, ferocity and manic energy that drives the book. Ms. Rapace delivers all that in spades. She’s maybe a little less elfin than the character described by Larsson, but other than that, she’s the Lisbeth from my head.I urge all fans of the book to see this enjoyable adaptation. [Oplev made all three movies at once, so the other two are headed this way.] Embrace the subtitles. This is a Swedish story through and through. It deserves to be seen in Swedish. It’s distressing to see US box office totals stalling at less than $10M. All that is going to do is fuel the drive to complete an insipid US version with some disheartening casting like Brad Pitt as Mikael and god knows who as Lisbeth. Whoever steps into that role, Noomi Rapace has already left her well behind at the starting line.
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