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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.

September 8, 2010

Thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Filed under: Entertainment — Tags: , , — allthatiswrong @ 12:38 pm

While traveling in Central America in June and July staying at various hostels, I came across many people reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After learning what it was about and hearing how good it was, I became interested in getting a copy to read. Even more so than normal due to being without my laptop. This became harder than I realized…at every hostel I met someone who had just started it, or was about to finish but didn’t want to swap for one of my books, or someone who had just swapped it at the last hostel. I finally found it by chance…I saw someone leaving my hostels book exchange with it, and was able to convince them to give it to me. I had been checking that book exchange each day, yet somehow missed it.

I started reading it, and it certainly seemed well written and interesting, although not terribly captivating. I had no trouble putting the book down, and taking a few days between reading chapters. I did start to feel a strong affinity for the lead character, Kalle Blomkvist. His dissatisfaction with the people in general and the industry he works with is something I can identify with, as well as his strong criticisms of peoples lack of critical thinking skills. One of the most disappointing things I’ve encountered while traveling and meeting many people is just how many people are literally incapable of critical thinking, and it was nice to see that point being hammered in.

It wasn’t until between a third and halfway through that the book got really interesting, with much of the first part setting p characters and situations. This isn’t a bad thing, and pays off in the end. Even so, the climax was seemed somewhat unfulfilling…, while it was entertaining and fit, I was expecting a lot more. However, this was due to people hyping it as opposed to the book failing to deliver.

It seems trivial to compare The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Da Vinci Code…a surprise bestseller that came out of nowhere that everyone is talking about and reading, and shortly after a movie is being made. The difference here is that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is actually a good story with interesting characters, not ridiculous twist after cliffhanger after twist. Both books seem to be cheap entertainment, which makes it interesting just how advanced Swedish cheap entertainment is compared to western offerings.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the title character, Lisbeth Salander. Someone more intelligent than most of those around her; someone who has been badly hurt and is extremely guarded as a result. To have people trying to get close to you and showing that they care about you but being unable to let your guard down or reciprocate. Honestly, I identified a lot with this character. There are a lot of people like this out in the world, and it is rare to see them developed as main characters in a book or movie.

Something that did annoy me was just how many people took it as fact that the character must suffer from Asperger’s or some other condition. This is briefly suggested by Blomkvist in the book, yet people have taken it a fact. I think this is sad…I see it as an example of people needing to assign a label to something they can’t understand or don’t want to. For someone like Lisbeth to have been what she has been through, her personality and view of the world is normal…there is no need to jump to accusations of mental disorders.

The one main criticism I have of the book is the rape subplot. It seemed completely unnecessary. Why put the character through such torment? Just to flesh her out? I don’t have a problem with the rape itself…, it’s just that it didn’t seem to serve any purpose. It didn’t really reveal anything knew about the character, and seemed to be there just for shock value. I don’t know if I can elaborate any more than that – it just seemed out of place. I am curious if the scene will be in the Hollywood version, or if it is in the Swedish film version which I have yet to see.

Lastly, the hacking subplot was annoying and resorted to tired clichés. Those magical Hollywood hackers, seem to have even infiltrated Swedish literature. One of the main problems here is the use of Apple products. Is a hacker in the sense that Lisbeth Salander is portrayed going to want a system that locks you in and limits your control, while also being horrendously insecure? Unlikely. Not to mention the ridiculous device that send bits of a program along with every webpage, and automatically assembles and executes on the target after downloading has completed. Riiiiiight.

For the most part The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was very entertaining and well written if a tad overhyped. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequels, as well as watching both film versions. I also aim to learn more about Steig Larson who seems to have had many interesting thoughts and ideas, only very few of which are present in his book. Recommended.

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