I recently went to see a Swedish film titled “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” a movie that is based on the award winning crime novel and international bestseller by author and journalist Stieg Larsson. There is a side story here and that is that sadly, Mr. Larsson was never able to see the first book in his millennium trilogy make it to the proverbial silver screen; in November of 2004 he suffered a massive heart attack at age 50. I think he would have been impressed with the finished product. I sat riveted through the two and a half hours of footage that unfolded on the screen. The movie’s subject matter was so intensely absorbing it was as if I metaphorically became one with the subtitles, and after awhile didn’t have to put in the usual strained effort to coordinate the reading of the subtitles, while at the same time attempting to see everything that was transpiring on the screen. I am most definitely a fan of foreign cinema, but usually I’ll have to see the ones I enjoy twice for the aforementioned reasons.
If you’ve seen the Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev, then you know while there is a moment or two of unbridled happiness mixed into the plot, it is in large part a dark, weighty film. In fact the name of the film in Swedish means “men who hate women,” and there are innumerable ways that is depicted during the movie’s runtime. It is a tale of serial murder which takes place on an epic scale that also incorporates the sometimes unscrupulous practices of big business while the plot unfolds on several continents.
Director Oplev’s adaptation of Larsson’s work relies heavily on the mystery, but propelling the plot forward are two multi-faceted, complex lead characters. First, there is Mikael Blomqvist, a former respected journalist who has become disgraced because of his latest story, played by charismatic actor Michael Nyqvist. Blomqvist is called to the sprawling estate of ultra-wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger, played by Sven-Bertil Taube. He is asked to launch a new investigation into the mysterious vanishing of Vanger’s niece Harriet from a family reunion that had taken place forty years ago.
A multitude of potential suspects begin to emerge, the majority of whom are members of the Vanger’s highly dysfunctional brood: cantankerous aunts, former Nazis who are now well past their prime, weird cousins and off-putting brothers. At this point during the film the character of Lisbeth Salander, played with raw intensity by Noomi Rapace, enters Blomqvist’s life and becomes his partner in uncovering the truth behind Harriet’s disappearance. Lisbeth is the heart that beats at the center of Larsson’s literary universe. She is a borderline-autistic, very proficient computer hacker who is monitored by the Swedish government due to some egregious behavior she engaged in as a child, and still in the present day her moral compass can be called into question. She looks at things in terms of black and white with no room for shades of grey. Lisbeth is a walking and talking embodiment of a bomb that is seconds away from exploding due to the slew of resentments that she harbors. Leaving that aside, Salander and Blomqvist make a formidable team who are able to delve deep into the background of the Vanger family and uncover dark, horrifying secrets from the past, but are the same actions still taking place during the present day? Is a member of the Vanger clan a sadistic, sexual murderer whose appetite for blood knows no bounds or a sworn enemy of the family who is trying to frame them? There in lies a part of the enigma that is this film, which director Oplev did a spectacular job of unfolding on the screen in a way that allows the audience to piece together the clues to come to an ultimate conclusion of what is real and what is subterfuge. Fans of the book will notice some distinct contradictions, but I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who’ve not yet read Larsson’s work or seen Oplev’s film.
Now having given you a small taste of the world that you’ll be transported to if you see the film, or read the book, or both, I’ll state again that this picture does not have to be remade into an American version. The Swedish director Oplev did Larsson, his fellow countryman, justice, and the movie should be enjoyed the way it has already been presented. If you don’t feel like shelling out the ten bucks to see the film at your local cinema, then do yourself a favor and at least rent it when it arrives on DVD and Blu Ray, July 6th.
Rumors abound as to who will star in the inevitable American remake. Director David Fincher (Seven) has already signed on to helm the project, and all indications point to the fact that he has a short wish list of actresses who he might like to see fill the American version of Lisbeth’s shoes, and an even shorter list of actors to play Michael. Brad Pitt and George Clooney’s names have been bandied about. I certainly understand Fincher’s reasoning for wanting either of those two involved with his project. They both are excellent award winning actors who bring incredible sexiness and star power to anything that either one of them is involved with. Again, however, I can’t see either one brining anything significantly new that Blomqvist didn’t already leave on the screen in the Swedish version of the film. Those in the running for the female lead include Carey Mulligan (An Education), Ellen Page (Juno), Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Kristen Stewart (The Twilight films), as well as Mia Wasikowska, Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, and Olivia Thirlby. All the aforementioned are competent actresses who’ve proven themselves in varied roles and who I believe could certainly handle the emotional intensity of the material, but I’ll reiterate, Noomi Rapace did such a fantastic job in the Swedish film that there is no need to reinterpret what she already showcased with the character. I hope that if an American version of the film is eventually cast, that Fincher will explore the possibility of giving an unknown actress her big break and allowing the character of Lisbeth to be portrayed by someone who American audiences don’t already associate strongly with another film production, which would be the case with the majority of the actresses who are in contention for the role. I know it’s going to be made, but in this blogger’s emphatic opinion, it’s simply not necessary. There have to be countless worthwhile projects that are sitting on shelves just gathering dust that should be given a good looking over before something that was fantastic the first time is remade.