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January 27, 2011

Thoughts on Män som hatar kvinnor

I started writing this just before I left Montreal….than traveling, parties, work and laziness all got in the way. Nevertheless, I have finally finished it during a blizzard in NYC. I watched Män som hatar kvinnor on my long train journey across Canada which I had been meaning to watch for a while. Män som hatar kvinnor is the Swedish adaption of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was mainly curious how the movie would translate to the screen, as it already seemed to be perfect for adapting. I was mostly taken back by the changes made from the book which I don’t think work.

The first thing I noticed that there is no conversation between Henrik Vanger and the detective as there is at the start of the book, something I felt set the tone for the rest of the story. After this I noticed that several key characters were omitted altogether. Lisbeth’s boss Dragan Armansky is not featured as a character at all, which I thought was a shame as it was his interactions with her that helped to flesh out the character. Erika Berger is not developed as a character at all, only appearing at the start and end of the movie for the Millenium magazine subplot.

I thought this was a shame as I found Erika’s and Mikael’s relationship to be one of the more interesting points of the book and it would have helped to flesh out Mikaels character on screen. There are also next to no interactions with the rest of the family, for example Isabella is nowhere to be seen and Martin only really appears at the end so it isn’t much of a shock. Despite reading the book in July, I could not remember if motivation for killing was related to the Nazi aspect of the characters, as from what I remembered it was not. I’m unclear at the moment but I wonder if Lisbeth let Martin die in the books, as it seemed somewhat out of place for her character to do so in the movie. It can be put down to just another way the character differs due to not being developed enough in the movie.

The entire Wennerström subplot is basically absent, there is nothing about the bribe or investigation and hence no motivation for Mikael to take the case, although he does which makes him quite a different character from in the books. The entire subplot of Lisbeth going to London is also subsequently absent with just a brief clip of her at the end in disguise, which is somewhat meaningless unless you had read the book first. It also makes Wennerströms suicide have next to no impact.

The silly hacking from the book carries over to the film but not to the same extent and is actually more believable. The ubiquitous internet was a bit silly although I guess they could have had a satellite phone secretly connected to the laptop while driving the deserted Swedish highways. One thing I didn’t like was that Lisbeth made herself known to Mikael rather than him investigating and finding her, which was a brilliant way for the two characters two meet and gave a lot more perspective into Mikael as a person.

As for the acting….both the leads give fine performances, with Noomy Rapace giving a particulary strong performance. The actress isn’t as physically frail looking as I imagined Lisbeth to be, but manages to pull of a sense of frailty by being on the defensive all the time. I imagined Lisbeth as appearing more apathetic and defensive in her behaviors rather than outward emotions, but I think this movie interpretation also works quite well. I also think the actor cast as the guardian, Peter Andersson, was perfectly cast and perfectly sinister.

All in all I don’t think the film was that good, and I don’t think it can stand on its own legs for viewing without reading the book first. I am more interested to see the Hollywood adaptation which I believe will be better due to David Fincher being a great director and the actors being better actors in general. The promo shots of Rooney Mara as Lisbeth match a lot more closely to how she was described in the book and I think Daniel Craig is perfect casting for the role of Mikael. I do only hope the Hollywood version does not cut so much important stuff out of the adaptation, or at least manages to find a way to preserve the character exposition. What I find annoying is that the Hollywood version may well turn out to be superior, but everyone is going to lampoon it in favor of the Swedish version due to a desire to be seen as cultured.

Only time will tell which movie will be better, but here’s hoping for a more faithful adaptation of the book that can keep me entertained and curious just as the original book did.

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