Monday, 12 December 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

I Blomkvist A Girl

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
(Män som hatar kvinnor)
Sweden/Denmark/Germany/Norway 2009
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Momentum Region 2 (original theatrical cut)

Warning: Spoilerama ahead!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of the last movies I watched at the cinema before I finally decided to start up this blog site. As such, it feels kinda ironic that this first installment is actually the last of the three I’ve actually got around to reviewing... the other two are here and here. In hindsight and having watched it again, of course, I can confirm that this first installment is a much better offering than the next two movies in the sequence in many ways.

I’m a big lover of the novels and the second and third of the movies, especially, did not do any justice to the characters and events as portrayed in Stieg Larsson’s original Millenium Trilogy. At the time I saw those, I don’t think I was aware that the movies had been cut down from episodes of a Swedish TV series, with the second and third movies coming off particularly harshly from all accounts. I’ve recently realised that the boxed edition of the movies that has recently come out, at least here in the UK, contains these original, extended (or uncut to be more accurate) and episodic versions of the movies... so I’m now looking forward to grabbing this box sometime next year and giving these versions a go in the hopes that all the vital (and even some of the not-so-vital) elements of the novels are faithfully covered and the end of the third part actually gives one more of a sense of resolution as it did in the novels when you realise the true emphasis of the emotions the characters Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander are feeling. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest has more of an up ending because of the history of the characters when they reach this point and, although we get exactly the same ending scene in the movie version, the lack of the parts of the story explaining the dynamics of the relationship between these two characters turn it into something of a flattened ending... rather than giving things the slight sense of hope contained in the novel.

But anyway... let me divorce myself from all that and fixate on the first movie because, as I said before, it’s a far better movie than the two which follow it.

A lot of this, I think, has got to be in the way the movie is put together. It’s a lot more leisurely in its pacing and editing, the cinematography is quite beautiful and there are some wonderful transitions and montages in this movie. I feel the direction is a lot more.... well... confident I guess. It’s not all cut shot, backwards and forwards “to”ing and “fro”ing as the second and third movies, which were helmed by a different director, seem to descend to quite often. There’s just something in the way the shots are lit which give the film, perhaps a little less visual clarity, but certainly a more sense of poetry in the images. A beautiful shot of a bridge with traffic going over it (not the main bridge which is essential to the storyline in this one, although the emphasis of that is toned down in the movie anyway) is not just used as an establishing shot, for instance, but a shot to be held for its own beauty for several seconds in and of itself.

The performances are all dead on but the two main elements which are pretty much missing in action in the movie, the swinger lifestyle of Blomkvist and Erika Berger (once a big wheel in the BDSM scene) and the Modesty Blaise-like personae of Lisbeth Salander as she adopts various disguises to build up her riches around the world, pretty much kill the set up for the next two parts. I’m hoping they’ll be among the elements touched upon in the extended/uncut versions in the new DVD set... especially since Erika Berger is such a strong character in the original novels and absolutely essential to the third book.

To be fair to the director of the two movies that came after this however, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is really the only part of the Millennium Trilogy which could be viewed as a stand alone story... being as it’s really an extended locked-room mystery story, with the whole island as the locked room... whereas The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest both interlock with each other and present a single narrative which derives from the character threads and set ups from this first story. So this one is less conspicuous when it leaves great chunks of the novel out but, the second two are very much reliant on these parts and it really shows by their absence in the movie versions.

So there you have it. When I wrote the reviews of the second one when it came out at the cinema, I was getting worried that the forthcoming US remake (think it’s released over here on December 26th?) would be a pale comparison to the original movies... but I was also hoping that the trilogy would be salvaged by a glorious last part... something which that third movie failed to deliver. Now I’ve kinda got my hopes pinned on the director of the US ones filming the novels properly and not making the same bad choices as the original versions. Time will tell I guess. One thing I will say though, is that Noomi Rapace who plays the titular character in the three original movies was absolutely tailor-made for the role... she’ll be a tough act to follow. Check back with me here at around the end of December and I’ll let you know what I think of her US counterpart.


  1. That's a thoughtful review. I was disappointed in this movie as I'd loved reading the novels and the movie left out great chunks. It left me wondering whether it would actually make sense if I hadn't read the novel. But I'll never know as my brain filled in all the missing parts... especially, as you say, the enviously free Erika Berger and, I'd add, the unique and humungous brain of Lisbeth. I'm looking forward to the US version though. Might even venture out with a friend to the cinema to see it. Sandy

  2. Hmmm.... in light of that comment... my review of the new one miught be a little later than scheduled folks!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Loved the whole Millenium Trilogy of films, still not manged to get my hands on the books but a kindly old friend might lend me his old copies, cool review though.
    Keep up the good work!!