Okay. Let’s get this out right from the get-go. I fully support the American version of the Swedish take on the international bestseller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I just want to put my two cents (or I think this deserves a dollar’s worth) in regarding the strong protests of the planned American remake of a trilogy that has literally made me revisit the good old years–when I was just a scrawny 13 year-old who frequented the Little Professor Bookstore in Boardman, Ohio.
A Quick Synopsis of the First Book (I promise not to give anything away, so read on!)
Lisbeth Salander is a tough-as-nails outcast. She is small–to the point that she looks fourteen, even though she is in her mid-20s. She works for a security company, doing background checks. Despite the fact that her boss believes that she has mental issues, she is incredibly gifted.
Mikael Blomkvist is a crusading journalist. At the beginning of the book, Blomkvist is sentenced to three months in jail after losing a libel suit. The lawsuit involved his story of a crooked, wealthy investor. Blomkvist’s reputation is tarnished, and he leaves the magazine where he acts as publisher and writer.
Somehow, Salander and Blomkvist unite to solve the disappearance of a young girl that happened in the 1960s. If anyone can solve it, these two can . . .
And that is all I am saying.
The Not-So-Hidden Message of the Books
This book–in fact, the entire trilogy–means more than the average bestselling mystery. The books have a powerful message that resonates throughout the international community. These books are really about violence against women.
Stieg Larsson–a man who passed away before getting a chance to see his books ignite a global phenomenon–clearly had a few questions in mind when he wrote the series. How many times can a woman’s rights be violated before she begins to push back? Is the mind truly mightier than brute strength? How does a childhood affect one’s overall behavior? Can the past really haunt the present?
Without a doubt, Salander is the great equalizer in all of this. Her intensity, her vengeful side, and her intelligence combine to create a force that overcomes the odds. Even with her faults, the reader roots for her.
What the Book Means for Me
I’m not going to lie. I was a book nerd when I was a teenager. I still am a book nerd–but now I am a book nerd with very discriminating tastes. When I was younger, I would go to this one bookshop with my dad and older sister to find the latest fiction works on prehistoric and native groups. From the time I read Clan of the Cave Bear at age 13, I was in full reading mode. A few years later–when I got my first taste of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour–well, I was a goner. Reading was my passion. And it ignited my imagination.
When I read, I was there in the cave with Ayla. I was there with Sacajawea. I was there in the old Mayfair house with Rowan.
At face value, my books were inanimate objects sitting on the shelf. In my mind, however, they were the treasures that were the gateway into a world of endless possibilities. Because of them, I became a history scholar. Because of them, I imagined a life that was far different than the small town of my childhood.
To be honest, it’s been over a decade since a book has captured my imagination in the same way. Maybe it was the overload of historical monographs that I read in college and graduate school. Maybe it was that life had jaded me. Maybe I had simply lost my flair to see past reality and just dream.
Then Something Happened this Summer . . .
I was reticent about picking up my father’s copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I thought it was too mainstream. It wasn’t Catch-22. It did not seem like something that would satisfy my intellectual side.
Then one night, I was bored. I looked over, picked up the book, and began to read. The first hundred pages were dry. I thought, “This is a great way to fall asleep at night. I will read this right before bed.” Oh, how I was wrong!
After the initial hundred pages, something happened. I was transfixed. I couldn’t put the darn thing down! I was blindsided with interest.
And, I cannot speak for anyone else–but by the last 200 pages, I was staying up until 4 am to see what would happen!
The second book was only different in the fact that I was instantly interested. Within a week, I had read The Girl Who Played with Fire and the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Right now, I am rereading the last book–just because. I mean, why would I read anything else after that adventure???
The point is this: the book opened up my imagination again. I was–once again–completely immersed in a world that was unknown to me. I was fascinated, to say the least. I wasn’t 30 when I read them. I was the same young girl who had fell in love with her books.
So, yes . . . I have a lot riding on this American remake of the first book!
Take a Deep Breath. Count to Ten. Okay . . . The American Movie is Going to Be Great!
For whatever reason–maybe it’s political correctness or intellectual snobbery–a great deal of people are naysaying the American remake of the Swedish films that were–in turn–adapted from the books.
Now, I am going to tell you here and now–I love a good foreign film. The problem is: the Swedish version of the first book is not a good film, especially for people who have not read the book.
The original film omits large chunks of the book’s plot. We never really know just what motivates the minds of the characters. Of course, that happens a lot when books are adapted for the big screen. And yet, the film really missed the boat with certain aspects. Now, I think that Noomi Rapace does a fine job as Salander….but with the right financial backing, the right cinematography, et cetera, the American version has the chance to appeal to larger audiences.
The Swedish film has a certain independent feel to it that many Americans just don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with that fact. It doesn’t mean that they are any less intellectual than their European counterparts. On the contrary, American audiences are more diverse than intellectuals assume.
Overall, for the books to receive optimal circulation in the US and attract a larger audience, the movie needs to be a lot better.
Yes We Can . . . Have a Great Movie Here, People!
There is absolutely no way that the average person who has not read the book can understand the overall plot and character development of the Swedish version. And I want the book to attract a larger readership! All in all, the quality of the first film is just lacking. The actors do a great job; but they don’t have a lot to work with.
The bottom line: I’m an American. I want my cinematography. I want my good musical scores in the background. I want my Daniel Craig (I don’t care if he’s a Brit. He’s one hot tamale).
I enjoy great foreign films. The problem with the first Swedish film, however, is that it is not a good film. Hopefully, the American version will do better. And–as an American, I’m just going to throw it out there: our films are always better. So there! (I am sticking my tongue out at you and running away to play in my own backyard right now).
To the American filmmakers: don’t screw this one up!