This week the Swedish film Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) is finally coming to theaters in the US under the same English title as the book its based on: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first book in the Millenium Trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, who supposedly planned a ten-book series, but died before he wrote the fourth book and, tragically, even before any of them were published – so he never knew how hugely successful his novels would become.
I love the books and had a chance to already see the film, since it had been out in Europe for a while. As a matter of fact, I’ve got the second movie on the way now and can’t wait… Even the third book I had to get from Germany since the American version (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest) still hasn’t been published.
In very brief: The Millenium books are thrillers set in Sweden. They mainly focus on a middle-aged journalist, Mikael Blomqvist, and a young tougher-than-nails computer hacker an heroine for our times, Lisbeth Salander, who solve several crimes while discovering shocking secrets, making personal connections and kicking a lot of butt (especially Lisbeth).
What I liked about the books was that they weren’t mere suspense thrillers or crime novels: there are elements of family saga, industrial espionage, history, Swedish culture, romance, social study, technology, women’s rights, government intrigue, world politics and very fascinating and fresh characters. The description of brutality, especially against women, gets intense and made me wonder at times what this might say about the author. But there was a perfect balance by focusing just as much on the repercussions of abuse in the lives of women and, of course, all the exemplary heroines in the book.
Another aspect that made the books hard to put down is that the personal stories of Lisbeth, Mikael and many of the other characters continue throughout and become the plot – with a serious cliffhanger at the end of book 2 (The Girl Who Played With Fire). It really is a shame that we won’t be able to read what other revelations and complications Larsson had imagined, e.g., what’s with Lisbeth’s twin sister? (Although there are rumors of a fourth manuscript and a family scandal surrounding the book getting finished by Larsson’s girlfriend or family.)
The movie, I thought, was great because it had all the same elements described above. That’s an accomplishment. But it also makes the film long: 2 1/2 hours. There was less brutality and less minor characters, as to be expected with a movie version.

Noomi Rapace (as Lisbeth Salander) and Mikael Nyqvist (as Kalle Blomqvist) in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
But most importantly, I thought the casting was perfect. Yes, Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth might not look like a 15-year-old boy as she’s at times described – but she is exactly as I imagined her: boyish, but beautiful, pierced, tattooed, black-clad, with rings under her eyes and hardly a smile or any unnecessary gestures. Bravo. And Mikael Nyqvist as a not unattractive middle-aged man with  a bit of a belly looks like the real deal, like a real man even. Who’s ever seen that? A lead actor that looks like a real person? It was wonderful to be pulled out of the movie for a moment and rejoice the fact that non-American movies still cast actors that look like people. This is truly one of the things I loved most about the film. Also their performances were fantastic, which really brought the well-imagined “written characters” to life.

Now the cinematography (art direction and nature) were stunningly beautiful – and so many scenes just played out elegantly without much music or dialogue. Was the beauty overdone and unrealistic? I don’t know – I hear Sweden really is that charming looking and, after all, the Swedes are responsible for the sleek designs of IKEA and H&M. And Salander’s place is a real mess.
So, of course, as this film, which was a huge success in Europe, comes to theaters in the US in Swedish with English subtitles, rumors about the American remake abound: David Fincher to direct,  Hollywood-glossy screenplay by Steve Zaillian, maybe cutesy Carey Mulligan as Salander… I even heard George Clooney and Brad Pitt as Blomqvist. Horrible. It’ll be the opposite of what I cherish in the books and films, I’m sure.
It’s really too bad that the average American doesn’t watch more foreign films. Most people seem to dismiss dubbing films. But I always wonder if dubbing films doesn’t open up more cinematic culture to the average movie-going audience. After all, I bet most Germans saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo dubbed in German and not in Swedish with English subtitles. But I’m not sure if they all flock to see the American remake… Yeah, they probably will.
For those, like me, who can’t get enough, here’s the Swedish trailer (with subtitles) for the sequel The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden):

And here’s the trailer (with English subtitles) for the third film based on The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes), which just came out in the Scandinavian countries, but won’t be in Central Europe until the summer.

2 Replies to “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009/2010) & The Millenium Trilogy”

  1. This book is on my To Be Read pile…at the top of it, actually…I've heard so much about it, both good and bad, that I can't wait to dig in!

    Love all these clips…once I'm done with the book, I'm totes renting the Swedish version!


  2. The books definitely aren't all perfect. For example, (as a professional romance novelist you might find this particularly striking): the rape and brutalization scenes are described in great detail – while on the other hand, the one positive sexual bonding scene just kind of gets skipped over on not described at all. Anyway, would love to talk about the books when you've read them.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.