The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo et al were made for television



Film On to the Swedish film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Leaving aside the sexual content which some viewers might find disturbing, here's what I thought went wrong, or at least what I thought directly after watching it the other afternoon:

#1: Naomi Rapace who plays "goth" computer hacker Lisbeth is a star in the making. But without her presence the film would be about as impressive as an average episode of Midsummer Murders (as opposed to a superior episode obviously). She has that rare ability to appear vulnerable and hard as nails at the same time, and reflect a depth of characterisation that isn't in the script. When she's not on screen, the film falls over.

#2: For a film called "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" it makes nothing of Lisbeth's tattoo. A director like Wong Kar Wai or Peter Greenaway would have made it symbolically important. I appreciate that as a crime thriller such symbolism recedes in importance, but across its two and half hour duration Blomkvist doesn't even bring it up in conversation.

#3: As Bradshaw says, it's too long.

#4: It's poorly structured at least in terms of character. For the first hour and a quarter, Blomkvist and Lisbeth are parallel protagonist with their own goals and whatnot. Then as soon as they meet, Lisbeth recedes into the background and almost all of her scenes are told from Blomkvist's POV.

This is typical in film -- the male protagonist always ultimately "steals" the narrative agency from the female even if there are two names on the poster. From then on, with the exception of two scenes, the rest of the story is Blomkvist's and Lisbeth slips in and out of view. Yuk.

Apparently the book is much better structured, sharing the story out right to the end, which made me wonder if the film makers shouldn't have just picked Blomkvist or Lisbeth as the POV character from the start. It also might have made for a shorter film. Oh and it fails The Bechdel Test. A lot.

#5: It's poorly structured its story development, turning deus ex machina into an art form. Over and over again the investigation reaches a stand-still and then Lisbeth will magic the necessary from her computer leading to the next set piece and crucially without irony.

#6: This film would be better if either Max von Sydow or Stellan Skarsgård were in it and it was directed by David Fincher.

Search around online to see if anyone else agreed with me, I stumbled upon this translated Swedish wikipedia page, which explains that the film and its sequels were turned into a tv mini-series with more footage extrapolating out certain things.

But I think something has been lost in translation because Variety suggests instead that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo et al were made for television with a view to the big screen before ultimately turning up on television anyway. Which of course explains rather a lot:

#1: The film would be about as impressive as an average episode of Midsummer Murders because it was shot for television initially.

#2: The Swedish title translates as "Men Who Hate Women" which has more relevance to the story than tattoos, obviously. It's also a touch less commercial which is presumably why it was changed for the translated book release and so the film. No wonder it fails The Bechdel Test.

#3: It's too long because it's two two hour tv episodes stitched together then edited down to the most important elements.  Nearly 110 mins of footage across the trilogy have been lost in the theatrical versions, about 36 mins per film. 

#4: It's structured around two tv episodes. Perhaps in the tv version, the parallel structure does continue into the second half but because Lisbeth's story is mainly character driven and Blomkvist's is plot driven and because of the needs of the genre, most of her second half character beats were lost in the theatrical version.

#5: Which might also mean that the investigative information which seems to drop in Blomkvist's lap later in the film was hard fought for otherwise. But again, to keep the film shorter such things as logic were lost in favour of creepy torture etc.

#6: I've just discovered that both Sydow and Skarsgård are both in the remake/US adaptation of the novel. Which is directed by David Fincher.

Nevertheless, I still feel like I did in the mid-80s when I realised that Battlestar Galactica was made for television and released at the cinema in the UK in the wake of Star Wars.

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