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Posts Tagged ‘adaptations’

Last night we screened the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I was disappointed, but not unexpectedly so.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie already, skip this post.

We read the books (in hardcopy, of course) years ago, burning through the trilogy in record time (for me…I’m a slow reader). While I didn’t find them flawless, I found them much more entertaining than Dan Brown or any of the other modern “thriller” genre. Personally, I found the whole Blomkvist-as-Babe-Magnet a bit tiresome, and felt Larsson intruding into the story with every conquest his hero made.

We did enjoy them, though, and when the Swedish movies came out, we snapped them up, screened them, and loved them.

In adapting a novel to the screen, you have to change something; you have to. Many people just don’t get this, and they’re angry when the screen version doesn’t match up with the novel, point for point, like a DNA profile. Every adaptation has to drop some elements, combine others, and sometimes insert new elements in translating from word to picture.

The Swedish versions did this perfectly. They dropped everything that was unnecessary (like the Blomkvist-as-Babe-Magnet wish-fulfillment), collapsed time, merged some ancillary characters, and told a story that was tighter, leaner, meaner, and more compelling than the original. Not bad.

Then, because Americans can’t be bothered to read subtitles, we made a version of the same movie, in English. It wasn’t atrocious, and if I’d seen it first, I’d have been less disappointed, but here were my complaints:

  • The opening credit sequence looked more like the start of a Bond film. It had nothing to do with the imagery of the film, a soundtrack that was jarring and out-of-place, and seemed so off-target that we wondered if they’d sent us the right DVD.
  • Why was Duck Lips (aka Daniel Craig) the only person in the movie who didn’t have a Swedish accent? Hell, even Robin Wright (great casting, BTW) did a passable job.
  • It was clear that someone in the Hollywood machine felt that the American version of Lizbeth had to be a bit more…sociable. While Rooney Mara did a very good job of acting, the writing and direction weakened the character. If you haven’t seen Noomi Rapace’s portrayal, rent the Swedish version and compare them. That is the Lizbeth Salander from the book.
  • Why change the end of the Harriet mystery? Why collapse the Anita/Harriet characters? The movie hit this point and it was like hitting a cobblestone road in run-flat tires. Bumpity-bump-thump, a few clumsy lines of dialogue, and Poof! Anita is gone. Where? Who knows, and it was so clunky I didn’t even scan back to parse the ham-handed expository block.

Not all was less than the original. Some of the Kubrik-esque rolling shots were quite effective, the soundtrack (apart from the opening credits) was effective, and Duck Li…I mean Daniel Craig was a more animated, less cryptic Blomkvist.

k

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