(Warning/Disclaimer: Contains hefty spoilers)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been the source of passionate conversation/argument at Screen 22 HQ. A section of Screen 22 has been defending the Swedish adaptation almost violently, stating it’s a great thriller and Noomi Rapace’s performance is brilliant. They voice the similar concerns of many other audience’s members clearly, because Hollywood have gone and taken their own slant on the story with a new adaptation, which will no doubt capitalise off the back of the European success of the Swedish adaptation whilst accommodating the lazy film-goers who still refuse to embrace and read subtitles (another rant, for another day)
On the other side of the fence, I’ve been campaigning for David Fincher’s adaptation. The Swedish film, to me, is an above-average thriller barely scratches the surface of Steig Larsson’s novel. Noomi Rapace does the best job she can with a fairly laboured screenplay. Most importantly, that adaptation felt more like a Sunday-afternoon murder mystery TV drama, rather than a full-length feature film. Fincher’s version is anything but an average TV detective drama. I think Hollywood and Fincher saw the opportunity to improve upon the Swedish version, which is exactly what they have proved could be done.
As Fincher’s adaptation has now hit the DVD shelves, (read my review here). Last year we thought it would be a sensible idea to attempt to end the long-suffering argument about which version is the best adaptation of Steig Larsson’s international blockbuster – faithfulness will work its way into the equation later on.
After watching the Swedish version, I bought Larsson’s book and read through bleakness of Sweden’s seedy underworld of human emotion. It’s important to state straight away, film adaptation of books are supposed to turn the book into a film, not put the book on screen, page by page.
Disclaimer: I have read The Girl Who Played With Fire and just begun to read the final book in the franchise, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest, but I’ve not seen the subsequent Swedish films.
Screenwriters have a tendency to dilute the book’s themes and material and turn into a cinematic spectacle. This does mean that facts, situations, characters and their motives will be changed in order to service the film. This won’t please many fans of the original source material, but it would help if everyone was able to understand what a film adaptation is and what it isn’t, as well as what it’s intentions are.
If you don’t know what The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is about, where have you been for the past two years? Lets start with Mikael Blomkvist, played by Michael Nyqvist and Daniel Craig respectively. In the Swedish version and the book, Blomkvist is a bitter man, realising that his respected reputation has gone down the toilet with his first round case against Wennerstrom. He’s not a sympathetic character compared to Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character, which makes Michael Nyqvist performance the definitive portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist in most people’s opinion.
However, their motive for participating in the investigation of a 40-year-old murder is very different. In the book and American version, the reason why Blomkvist took on Vanger’s proposal is Vanger had damaging information on Wennerstrom from 1970s when he was working for the Vanger group – details about Wennerstrom’s financial embezzlement against the company. This gives the American version more cohesion and urgency to the plot knowing that Blomkvist is going to get something morally rewarding at the end.
The Swede’s went for the family angle, by making Blomkvist feel he owed Vanger because Harriet was his babysitter as his father worked for the Vanger Group – which is also in book. Although I don’t any personal against this, it feels rather cliché and manipulative to play the family card against our main protagonist.
Over the course of Millennium Trilogy books, Blomkvist and Berger (Robin Wright) have a sexual relationship, which is very briefly explored in Oplev’s and, also, briefly explored in Fincher’s. Although I would’ve loved to have seen more scenes between them, I understand the time constraints Zaillian was under, so I wasn’t that disappointed, along with Blomkvist brief affair with Cecelia Vanger.