Monday, February 06, 2012

In Conversation: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A few nights back my wife (aka Dragon D) and I took some time from our usually busy schedules to catch David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As we both read the source material, the film seemed like the perfect choice to discuss for our latest “In Conversation” piece. Though we both read the first book in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, our overall experience with the trilogy has been vastly different. I have read the first book and watched the first two Swedish films (Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire). My wife, on the other hand, has read all three books in the trilogy, but has only seen one of the original Swedish films, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

CS: As always I would like to start by getting your initial reactions to the film?

Dragon D: My very first thought was that they skipped over several things that took up a large chunk of time in the book. Such as Blomkvist going to jail. I guess, thinking about it, that was not really essential to the plot. However, it is felt odd that something which took up a good chunk of the book was completely left out.

CS: I had actually had the opposite reaction. I will try my best not to compare this version to the Swedish film, which I thought was very good in its own right, but I actually thought this was a better adaptation of the book. Fincher delved into many aspects of the book that I found interesting. I could care less about the jail subplot but I loved the stuff about Millennium magazine. I also liked that the film took time to really explore the dynamics of the Vanger family. The original Swedish film tried so hard to condense things that the interactions between the Vanger clan felt rushed. It was like characters just popped up said a line and were gone. Whereas in this film, they not only introduce you to the character, but you also got a shot of their houses in relation to where Blomkvist is staying.

Dragon D: I actually agree with that point, I really liked how they guided you through all the members of the family. I believe in the beginning of that book there is actually a character chart because there are so many people you need to keep track of. I even liked how they used the various visuals, especially the layouts on the wall, to show how Blomkvist goes about solving the mystery.

CS: You made reference to the photos on the wall, following along those lines, I really enjoyed how the film handled the flashbacks. Not just the flashbacks to what happened at the parade and the stuff on the bridge, but you actually see elements of the police search for Harriet. Little details like that worked for me.

Dragon D: They did a great job incorporating details in general. Normally a film of this scope would not include minute details that the book would have explored in depth.

CS: Even some of the little quirks characters had manage to standout. I do not know if you noticed this, but the killer takes a second to use hand sanitizer before commencing his routine.

Dragon D: I thought that was great. It emphasized how killing was a clean business to the killer. Everything had its order.

CS: Elements like that pleasantly caught me off guard. What did you think of Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the roles of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander respectively?

Dragon D: It was a little odd at first, but I quickly got wrapped up in the story and was able to buy in. As is the case whenever we discuss a film based on a novel, it takes me a while to adjust to the fact that the characters look different to what I envisioned in my head. Though Rooney Mara was pretty close to what I had envisioned the character should be. Even Craig was not that far off either, at no point did I think “oh there is James Bond.”

CS: Well the opening credits came pretty close to the film feeling like a James Bond film.

Dragon D: True, but I did not like the opening credits, that would probably be my one complaint with the film. I was just too much! It was a neat concept with the computer cables, and such but it just went on forever.

CS: Getting back to the performances, I thought both Craig and Mara did a great job. For me the difficultly was not comparing their performances to the images I already had in my head from the Swedish film. Regardless, I thought both managed to offer their own unique take on the film. Rooney Mara in particular really delivered in a role that would be tough for any actress to play. Essentially she had to be both tough and vulnerable, while still showing her feminine and overall humanistic side. I will say that the performances, and overall detail in the film, really has me excited to see The Girl Who Played with Fire. This actually says quite a lot considering I was rather disappoint with Swedish film version of the second book.

Dragon D: I am interest to see how they adapt the next book. They had me hooked by the end of this one. One thing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film reminded me about was just how much Blomkvist and Salander are apart in the novel. Half of the book, and film for that matter, is them off doing their own thing. I liked the juxtaposition of their lives throughout the film. You go from the infamous rape scene to Blomkvist chilling on the couch listening to music.

CS: I noticed that as well. In the event that ultimately leads up to the rape scene, there is a shot of Salander scrubbing out her mouth, and puking, in disgust. Then Fincher cuts to a scene where Blomkvist is happily squirting breath freshener as he is about to go into a party. It was such an interesting contrast that links up their lives quiet well. I will say that, because of what the characters go through, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not an easy film to sell to the masses.

Dragon D: Not only do you have the rape scene, but also the revenge scene which is as equally tough to watch. However the book was like that too, both the film and the book did a good job of taking you through these disturbing moments while still making you excited to see the next film.

CS: What grade would you give the film overall?

Dragon D: You know, I really like this film so I think I will give it an “A”. They stayed true to the book and I just thought it was really well done. I am very interested to see the next one. How about you?

CS: I am actually going to give it an “A” as well for pretty much all the reason you stated. The performances where good, I liked all the little details Fincher included, and I really like the way the film explored both the Millennium aspect as well as the Vanger clan. It is essentially the version of the book that I wanted to see on the big screen.


  1. Phips3:01 pm

    Finally this is here. Ive waiting to hear your feedback and analysis of this.

    First, I've read all 3 books and seen all 3 swedish films and this one. I watched the Swedish version a day or 2 before seeing this one to refresh my memory.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the US version is a much better adaptation of the book than the Swedish version for whatever reason...maybe its that the US writer is "better" than the Swedish one or that Hollywood films are better in general than Sweidsh films. I liked that the US version incorporated Mikael's daughter, better displayed Erika and Mikael's relationship, better set up Lisbeth and Mikael's meeting, and (albeit a small detail) incorporated the cat and its death.

    I too agree that we shouldnt be comparing the two films as the newest isnt a remake of the Sweidsh one, its separate adaptation of the text.
    Its hard not to compare the 2 films though. As seen with the characters and their actors.

    Going into the film I thought there'd be no way Rooney could top Noomi. And I was right..sorta. I was pleasantly surprised at how great Rooney was. She was fantastic and got a deserved-although surprising-Oscar nod. I think they both played her in their own way and each was a little different but both very good.
    As for James Bond. I was outraged by this casting. After reading the texts and seeing the Swedish films' actor I completely agreed that that is how Mikael should be...sorta pudgy, not too attractive. Yet here comes the US trying to sell alot of tickets and signs up James Bond..the complete opposite of the character in my opinion. That said, Craig wasnt too bad but I wouldve preferred a different casting.

    The supporting cast was fantastic...Robin Wright, Plummer, and Stellan.

    Now my big problem with the film. It was way too Americanized for me. First theres the casting of James Bond, as aforementioned. But then, secondly, there's the sexualization of Lisbeth. They put too much nudity in this film and made the sex scenes way too sensual. Lisbeth isnt supposed to be seen as a sexual being. The Swedish film's take on their sex scene is correct..abrupt, passionless, and awkward. Opposite of the US version.

    All this said, I really liked the film. Im surprised it didnt do so well and am worried that as a result of that they might not make the final 2 films. Which is a shame since the 2nd book is my fav. Im also worried that Fincher may drop out since the second 2 books are one long story and thus the films would need to be filmed back to back and thats a big time commitment. If they do get made I hope the screenwriter stays the same.

    Just my 2¢

  2. Phips3:07 pm

    Oh yeah, I forgot a key part...the score.

    In my opinion, I thought Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor pumped out another great score and despite not being Oscar-nom'ed this year again, the score was great. I've listened to it many times on my iPod and I think it fits perfectly. The adaptation of "Immigrant Song" with Karen O is great..sure, the opening credits are bizarre but I didnt mind them. Good score..helped the movie too.

    (sorry for the long posts)

  3. I wanted to let you folks know that as one of my favorite blogs, I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. Check out my post for details:

    Feel free to accept or decline. No pressure.

  4. I watched the American version first and then watched the Swedish version. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed both but if i had to choose between the two i would have to go with the Hollywood version.

  5. @Phips – First off, no apologies needed. We appreciate all comments, long and short.

    I would not go as far to say that one writer was better than the other per say, but I did find that the extra time spent in the American version had a more satisfying payoff. The two points you raised about how the film explores Mikael’s relationship with both his daughter and Erika are perfect examples of this. You really get a better understanding of how he connects with each woman far better than the Swedish version.

    The score is indeed fantastic. While I am not a Nine Inch Nails fan, I must admit that really like Trent Reznor’s film scores to date.

    I also hope Fincher signs on for the second book as well. I would love to see what his full vision for the trilogy would look like.

    @Chip Lary – Thanks again for considering us.

    @Film – Both versions are quite solid. I guess it really all comes down to personal taste.


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