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Mainstream Chick with Greta Gerwig @Middleburg

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

In 1994, Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson died, leaving behind three unpublished novels. They became international bestsellers. And all three have been adapted to the screen in Swedish. The first in the trilogy is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Interestingly, the Swedish title is Men who Hate Women – a decidedly more apt description. Warning: There are some extremely raw scenes of sexual violence in the film.) In it we are introduced to the two main characters of the series – Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Mikael is a journalist who we meet just as he is being found guilty of libel and sentenced to jail time. In Sweden you don’t go immediately to jail, so he is at loose ends since he cannot go back to work at the magazine for whom he wrote the libelous piece.

Meanwhile, at a high class investigative agency, a nicely dress gentleman is asking for background info on him. The Blomkvist dossier is delivered to him by a strange but clearly very bright punk girl, Lisbeth. Along with the other info, she adds, “He was set up.” Soon Mikael is contacted by Henrik Vanger, a retired industrialist and former head of the Vanger Group. He offers Mikael an intriguing job as an investigative journalist. 40 years earlier Vanger’s 16 year old niece, Harriet, the apple of his eye, disappeared. Every year on his birthday, he receives a reminder that he believes is from her killer. Since he is an old man, he wants to find the murderer before he dies.

Mikael moves up to the remote island where all the Vangers live and is given all of the evidence that has been collected over these four decades. Reading through the files, begins to understand why Vanger included his entire family in the list of suspects. They take dysfunctional to a whole new level with several of them being Nazis, others that have stopped speaking to one another and too many secrets to name. As Mikael digs he comes to several dead ends. But unbeknownst to him, Lisbeth has hacked into his hard drive and in doing some investigating on her own, unravels one particularly vexing clue. She sends him a not so anonymous email and the two of them team up to solve the case.

Lisbeth is one damaged girl. Not that we know what it is about, but she has to report to a state appointed guardian on a regular basis and since her old guardian has just had a stroke, she is set up with a new one who turns out to be a sadistic misogynist. But Lisbeth shows him that she may be small but she is hardly a victim.

Together Mikael and Lisbeth make one of the stranger detective couplings out there. She is a twenty-something Goth/Punk and he is a pretty normal middle-aged professional. But they need each other and as screwed up as she may be, he lets her be. Perhaps it is just good writing, but there is very little in the film that seems gratuitous, including the violence. Lisbeth and Mikael’s relationship is what it is. The mystery plays out with bits of stories intertwining until finally it all comes together for a very satisfying conclusion.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the highest grossing movie of all time in Sweden. And already they are talking about an American version with Clooney, Pitt or Depp stepping into the Mikael role with either Kristen Stewart or Carey Mulligan as Lisbeth. It will no doubt change considerably from this version. I like the original for its non-Hollywood treatment, but if they have to make it with Clooney, so be it. Meanwhile, I recommend you see this one. It is a very good thriller!

2 Comments

  1. Valerie, May 5, 2010:

    I love this book, and can’t wait to see it on screen. When I was in London last month all of my friends were telling me I had to see the movie – so much so that I came home and started reading the book until the movie came out here!

  2. Arty Chick, May 5, 2010:

    The movie is pretty faithful to the book. Some things have been compacted for time (and some story lines are missing altogether), but I think it is a good adaptation. There is also a TV series in Sweden. I’d be interested to see what someone who has not read the book has to say about it though.

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