Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The Movie'

Late last night, I finally got up to the highlight of my week, seeing the film version of my recently beloved book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'd heard excellent things from various review sites and I definitely wasn't disappointed. Just as the book was long, the movie is two and a half hours, but it went by so very fast. Some things were omitted and condensed, but it was overall very faithful to the book and definitely captured the right tone.

The movie, to begin with, was excellent. Things were toned down or changed somewhat-- Mikael (Michael Nyquist) is not nearly as much of a ladies' man as he is in the book; his affairs with Erika and Cecilia are omitted, and indeed Erika is barely seen. (This actually disappointed me a little; I did really like her character, and I would have liked to see another female character, but I suppose it was due to screen time and so that Noomi Rapace could be the sole female lead.) Michael Nyquist was very good; I liked watching him and I'm having a difficult time thinking of American male actors who could play the role (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Johnny Depp have all expressed interest; I'd personally vote for Clooney, even though I'm not a fan of his, but he's slightly too old). The woman who plays Lisbeth, Noomi Rapace, is absolutely incredible. She is the Lisbeth I read about, and she plays it to perfection. She captures the intensity, the quiet, the violence, the sheer inscrutability. Carey Mulligan is being rumored for the remake; I think she could do it some justice, but I agree with Roger Ebert-- keep Lisbeth Swedish and just recast Rapace.

The film was paced well, and the few omissions and changes made sense. There were some more explicit references to Lisbeth's past than we get in the book. Since I'm about 1/7ish of the way through The Girl Who Played with Fire, I'm not quite sure myself yet of what that past is, but I'll find out soon enough! I'm pretty sure the second movie is coming out in July and the third will be out in the fall; whatever the case, I'm probably going to be there opening day. (At this point, I'm planning on buying The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest the day it comes out and locking myself in a room with food and water.)

Something I forgot to mention in my last review: the original Swedish title is Män som hatar kvinnor, which translates to Men Who Hate Women. This isn't publicized, as the movie subtitles it as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I hate the feeling that if the original title was kept, many more people would have gone in aware of the subject matter. At the same time, many people might have stayed away.

The movie does not spare the brutality of the book in any way. This is one of the things many people fear will be toned down for the Hollywood remake. My stepfather and I were discussing this today: whether or not the violence needs to be shown for it to be effective. I believe it very much has to be there-- many people call the violence another character in the story, and I agree-- and that it has to be shown. Larsson was criticizing the Swedish system and the abuses it allows, and even if the scenes between Bjurman and Lisbeth were so, so disturbing, they need to be there.

I have to tip my hat to the man who played Bjurman, who IMDb tells me is named Peter Andersson-- he unnerved me far more than the previous top movie-creep I'd ever seen (Benedict Cumberbatch in Atonement). I found it very hard to watch the screen during the two rape scenes; I was digging my nails into my palms and almost hyperventilating. Seeing it on screen is undoubtedly worse than reading it on the page, and as much as it disturbed me, it is just the point of the story that something has to be done about violence against women. Not only in Sweden, but anywhere. My mother expressed the same feelings I did-- seeing Lisbeth take her revenge on Bjurman was incredibly satisfying, and for me, it was the only thing that made reading/seeing those difficult scenes remotely okay. Anyway, the performance is small, but Andersson does an excellent job of capturing Bjurman's slimeballness. The women in back of us were gasping as he asked Lisbeth disturbing personal questions, and they even walked out on the rape scenes, only returning once they were done. It is difficult watching, but it is important.

Some small changes were made, as I said-- Berger is not as much of a presence; Millennium isn't really seen that much. The last 100 pages or so of the book are condensed; it mainly ends after the Harriet mystery is solved, and the resolution of the Wennerstrom affair is heavily condensed for time reasons. I think about half an hour was cut from this theatrical version of the made-for-TV film-- I'm not sure what's in that half an hour, but perhaps it will be restored on the DVD.

(ETA: I just looked it up and found out that 28 minutes or so was not cut from this version-- two separate versions were put together: one for TV and one for theatrical release Stateside. I'm glad to see that the TV version has the excised threads, the Mikael/Erika relationship and the resolution of the Millennium issues in the last 100 pages or so of the book. Sad to see Erika's screentime got cut some, but it's nice to know they didn't neglect it entirely.)

I know a lot of people have issues with subtitles, and it was a tiny bit distracting, but I've dealt with it before and it didn't so much bother me here. Swedish is a hella confusing language to listen to, though, haha. I would hear their voices, look at the subtitles, and think to myself, "THAT'S what they were just saying?" It was interesting, though; I've barely heard Swedish being spoken.

Overall, the movie itself was an excellent and near-faithful adaptation of the book. It was dramatic, horrific, and spellbinding all at once. This is one I dearly wish Hollywood won't touch, when there's a perfect one already, but if it has to be done, I'll watch it if the cast is bearable. Until then, though, Michael Nyquist is Blomkvist to me, and there is no question--Noomi Rapace just is Lisbeth.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Trai! I would just like to say that it's a very good and accurate review. I too had difficulty watching the rape scene (luckily I was watching it on my computer so I could look away and turn down the volume). I was quite surprised on how long the rape scene was, but I suppose that plays a great deal of importance to the film. Actually, I was burying my head into my stuff toy, which was actually very assuring. I don't really mind the lack of screen time from Erika Berger, but it's a relief she's actually there.

    Also, I agree it's a complete (pardon me) bullshit idea that Hollywood is even attempting to make a remake. So far, the casting is relatively okay (one of them is Swedish), but I think the biggest thing that could either make or break the film will be the actress playing Lisbeth Salander (since Rapace refuses to reprise the role :( ).

    Keep up the great work! :D