The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Song of the Day: Love Like the Sun by Pal@Pop

the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-20111I was somewhat coerced into watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Christmas Day 2011, by friends who had neither read the book nor watched the 2009 Swedish movie of the same name of which this is a re-make.

It is highly unusual to see a re-make of a successful film a mere two years after it was released. The Swedish movie made its debut in 2009 and almost immediately became an international hit, winning eight foreign-language awards.

I watched it with as open a mind as I could manage. I concentrated. I rid myself of all thoughts of the book. I didn’t even think of the previous movie. I engrossed myself in the glitter, music, and sharp imagery … Something was missing.

Unfortunately, for me, once a question props in my mind, I have to seek the answer. Why did I think that? That question will gnaw till it finds an answer. I re-watched the Swedish movie. It was just as I remembered it, but the answer was still elusive. Not to say that I couldn’t have written a ten-page paper comparing the two; it wasn’t what I was seeking. I re-read the book, and just because I was now engrossed read the consecutive two. Finally, the answer was so obvious that I had to laugh at myself. It was frigidity.

In 1936, the Hollywood mogul David O. Selznick bought the Swedish movie Intermezzo, and signed its star Ingrid Bergman and  re-made it in 1939 under the same title with Bergman repeating her original role in an otherwise British and American cast.

During the pre-production he sent a three-page memo to his chief producer about such adaptations. ‘I want to impress on you strongly,’ he wrote, ‘that the most important saving to be effected in remaking foreign pictures – a saving that more than offsets the doubtful foreign markets that have been used up by the original version, and that makes these remakes uniquely desirable – is in the shooting, by actually duplicating, as far as possible, the [earlier] film.’ He then added: ‘Granted a good cast, direction as good as Molander’s on the original, a somewhat faster tempo than his, for I think the pace is much too slow for an Anglo-Saxon audience, and some cuts – we can duplicate the picture.’

So it would make sense that Steven Zaillian (the screenwriter) and David Fincher(director) would streamline the movie. The Swedish movie by Danish film-maker Niels Arden Oplev was amazing, but an American audience have already found it hard to follow his movie. But what do you lose?

The problem it seems is not much one of the lack of talent or ability by the team and especially the director, the famous David Fincher (undoubtedly a gifted and uncompromising filmmaker) but more a misunderstanding of the core of the plot and moreover, a misread of the reason why people are constantly drawn to the books.

Unfortunately everything from the scenery shot in well-chosen locations in rainy Stockholm and the frozen north, to the characters, to the adoption of an informal, neutral English inflected with apparently what we’re supposed to assume is a Swedish accent – all come together to present one with a movie that is at once dazzling but lacking in all the daring. In short, the movie is frigid.

Any reader of Stieg Larsson’s books or viewer of the Swedish movie knows already that the offer is a bleak and savage story of a crime and punishment that features generous portions of violence, sadistic rape, twisted torture and murders that can at their most charitable be called grotesque. But even there, Larsson’s writing is such that he engrosses you in this world and make you appreciate the humanity (flawed as it may be) of his characters.

The main reason why most people are constantly drawn to the books is simple. Lisbeth Salander. She is one of the most unlikely, idiosyncratic and compelling fighters we have had in contemporary literature. One of the reasons she is perfect on paper is that she is anything but in real life. Asocial, introverted, bright and intelligent, exhibiting explosive anger and violence, and with more piercings than friends – she is fierce, furtive and feral. But she is a magnet.

The Swedish movie had the advantage of the actress Noomi Rapace. Her savage Salander was skittish and tattooed as she could be, but there was always the sense of an actual person inside those fierce defences that enabled audiences to connect on screen in the way readers do on the page. Rooney Mara’s Salander is just as skittish and tattooed but, unfortunately this film’s cold, almost robotic conception of Salander as a twitchy, anorexic waif feels more like a stunt than a complete character, and so the best part of the reason we care enough to endure all that mayhem has gone away.

I did enjoy the movie, but unfortunately the frigidity despite the sleek and sexy cinematography made it hard to connect.

Till Next Post!

PS: One of the friends who watched the movie with me, and produces music (as a hobby) was inspired by the club scene and the result was this: One Night Only (Instrumental) by Derek Portea (who also regularly blogs here and sometimes here).

PPS: I posted a version of this review originally here on 9 January 2012.

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One thought on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  1. Pingback: Revenge, like octopus, is a dish best served cold! | AMTAF!'s World!

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