Friday, February 14, 2014

Män som hatar kvinnor/The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Män som hatar kvinnor (dir. Niels Arden Oplev) is the 2009 Swedish adaptation of Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I thought the 2011 American adaptation, directed by David Fincher, was good.  BothAlthough I found the novel entertaining and readable, as a novel it wasn’t very good.  Both films bring to life the essential events and characters of the novel.  Both are successful adaptations, but the Swedish version is better than the American.  Why?  If we’re dedicated to the notion that a good adaptation must adhere somewhat closely to the details of the source text, Opley’s film more successfully captures Larsson’s narrative, the details of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance, of the serial killings, of how the killer is identified, and of the personalities of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  The actors who portray these characters seem more like the characters that Larsson described in his novel, in particular Blomkvist, who is more rounded and middle-aged in appearance (based on the novel’s descriptions) than Daniel Craig.  If we’re dedicated to the notion that a successful adaptation must be forst of all a good film, then Opley’s film wins out there as well.  Both films avoid the flaws in the novel—too much talking and exposition, not enough drama.  The novel’s focus on violence against women, especially rape, and its strident criticism of the corruption of capitalism, which can become preachy at times, are better integrated into the narrative in the film.  Virtually everything that happens in the novel is tied up in violence against women, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Nazism, anticapitalism.  Is the story supposed to be a polemic, or a crime narrative in which these various sins contribute to but do not overwhelm events?  (These flaws are even more evident in the second and third volumes of the Larsson Trilogy).  Both adaptations are better-made films than the novel is a novel.  Finally, however ingenious Larrson’s plot may be, the nature of Harriet’s disappearance, the serial killer and the Old Testament rationale he applies in his killings—these are all fairly conventional.  What makes the novel, and the film adaptations, stand out are the two main characters, Blomkvist and Salander.  They are fully, distinctively drawn, and, most of all, human.

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