Saturday, January 7, 2012

Three Girls With The Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson's story of Men Who Hate Women (the original title of the Swedish novel) had a tragic beginning. It came as the opening story of the Millennium trilogy and he was working on all three novels for a long, long time. Then one day he came to work (he was working as a journalist) and realized that the elevator was down. So he took the stairs. By the time he almost reached his work space, he collapsed due to a heart attack. He didn't make it but what he left behind were amazing stories that enamored the world and captured millions and millions of readers.

So began the story of one of the most enigmatic heroines ever depicted. Lisbeth Salander, the (proverbial) girl with the dragon tattoo (and many others) is a hacker, a computer genius who helps Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has fallen from grace, restore his name, solve a 40 year old mystery and earn some money on the way. Going into details about the plot would be superfluous and insensitive of me, so for the entire plot (consider yourself warned - it *does not* save you from spoilers and they are GOOD) go here.

The book is, suffice to say, amazing. Even the parts that you think are irrelevant or not important or could be skipped turn out to be of major significance. Lisbeth Salander, as presented in this book, is such an intriguing character that it should by all means be introduced to everyone through this book. Neither through the indie-film character nor through the blockbuster-movie character. The way she is described is what any author always dreams of succeeding with their character-building technique. You not only don't know whether to love, fear or wanna-avoid her. More than that, no matter how you like or dislike her, you desperately want to know what happened to her, what is happening with her and what awaits for her. If she were alive, she'd have the most Facebook friend requests ever (hear that, Fincher?). She is a social pariah, a literal weirdo and not very friendly and yet she is honest, no-bullshit, straight-to-the-point genius with absolutely no need to do anyone any favors, to follow the regular society rules or manners. She is who she is and nothing will change her. She is shameless to the point of being completely and utterly free of any kinds of bonds. Except for bonds with other human beings that involve trust and letting go.
The way the plot develops is also very astounding. Delving into details is, again, not something I wish to do. But let me say that every word and sentence, every turn of the head, smile or action speaks volumes of every character and their agenda. And the only person who is truthful and perhaps the most innocent in the entire scheme is the poor old Henrik Vanger.

It was only a matter of time when the world would take notice of such a dark, twisted and complicated mystery that could (let's face it) not possibly have grown anywhere else but under the cloudy, dark and freezing skies of Scandinavia. But before Hollywood had a taste of just how deep the dirt they were about to tread into really is, Sweden took notice. Of course. It goes without saying that their film version would without a doubt be better than what any other big bucks, fat budget movie maker from the promised land could even come up with. Right?

Well, after reading the book, I first watched the Swedish version of the film. Because back then there was no Hollywood version yet released and because I wondered how Lisbeth was in the flesh. In the flesh, seen by the Swedish, of course. To put it bluntly, I was horrified, upset and pissed off after watching the movie. Not only did it not follow the plot and change some extremely important parts and omitted some story-crucial events, it hinted at what book number II was bringing and at what story the second movie would be telling. Given that the book only hints at it, I was upset that anything would be told about it in the movie. I felt it disrespectful to the readers and perhaps not that relevant for the movie-watchers (unless it was about enticing them to come see part II). Lisbeth, as portrayed by the beautiful Noomi Rapace, was nothing like the Lisbeth in the book. Apart from tattoos and brooding character in dark clothes and offensive t-shirts, of course. She was the well-built, strong kind of version of Lisbeth, who in the book was almost anorexic, asexual and more unpretty than attractive. Noomi was simply too well-built and too beautiful to play the enigmatic Salander. Despite the fact that she was brooding and dark, she did not strike me as the kind of Lisbeth that the book painted for me. But, then again, it's in the eye of the reader.

Mikael Blomkvist: "What has happened to you? How did you turn out this way? You know everything about me. I don't know shit about you. Not a damn thing."
Lisbeth Salander: "That's the way it is."

Then David Fincher stepped in. The story seems to have been written for his movies. The director, known for his dark telling of stories and magical musical soundtracks that give you... well if not the creeps then at least the feeling that something or someone is following you. Perhaps even chasing you. Just like the secrets that Lisbeth and Mikael are chasing. They are hiding from the investigating duo but lurking behind the corner, waiting to attack them. And Lisbeth Salander in this case, played by Rooney Mara (who is anything but my favorite actress in the world) is dead on. It was like watching the Lisbeth I read about come alive on the screen. She seems exactly like the kooky, geeky and bratty Salander that pisses off her co-workers and anyone who ever tried to be polite with her. Mara's Lisbeth seemed more vulnerable, the way I actually imagined Lisbeth, while Rapace's was strong, undefeatable and at some glances seemed even malicious. Almost like a superhero in her own mind. Definitely not one I would believe can be forced into horrible deeds or be manipulated by society.
The way Fincher unraveled the story (or rather Steven Zaillian, who wrote the screenplay, the same person who is set to write the script for the movie version of A Thousand Splendid Suns) is to be debated. He skipped some important parts of the plots and changed others in order to fit his version of the story. Or budget. (?!) Or location(s). Who knows. In the end it seemed like the Swedish and American version were completing each other and yet skipping some things. Hollywood was building this story since 2008 and Fincher has been attached to it since beginning of 2010. Just so we don't accuse anyone of making a remake.
I must add that I loved the slight accent the actors had, from Robin Wright to Mara, it made for a more authentic story. Perhaps only Daniel Craig was babbling and mumbling instead of enunciating. And he was speaking in a thick English accent. I do hold that against him.

Lisbeth Salander: "He's had a long standing sexual relationship with his co-editor of the magazine. Sometimes he performs cunnilingus on her. Not often enough in my opinion."

All in all, I've decided that this book cannot possible be made into a good, cover-it-all kind of movie. It needs to be at least a mini series. So many little bits of information, character importance or story turns that explain things so much better, have to be omitted in max three hour time span. Lisbeth Salander is simply too complicated to be squeezed in such a short interval.

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