Sun 20 Sep 2015
When I wrote about the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo a few years ago I ended with a remark that I am concerned about the news of an American Hollywood version of the film. I still believe that the Scandinavian version of the first of Stieg Larsson’s book in the Millennium trilogy is a better movie, but from many respects the American remake directed by David Fincher is a respectable effort worth being seen and watched even if you have already seen the original, and even if you are not necessarily a big fan of the author and the legend around him (which continues to develop as we speak).
I was expecting to see what the director of Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, Gone Girl, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will make out of the labyrinthine and cool (from so many respects) Scandinavian thriller. To my surprise he was quite respectful to the original story, and developed it better than the version directed by Niels Arden Oplev some of the detective story elements. The Agatha Christie heritage is so evident here that we did not need a Christopher Plummer in the cast to make it more obvious, but I enjoyed his presence. The Hollywood version is also more detailed in describing the social backgrounds of the two principal characters and this only makes their encounter even more charged when it happens. Did I miss something from what I was expecting from Fincher? Yes – the surprise, the usually close to the final twist that makes many of his film be something else than what you believed them to be when you watched them for the first time. Too much respect for the text sometimes harms.
Despite being made at high professional level the Hollywood version stands one step lower than the Swedish one on several key aspects. One is the atmosphere. Whatever Hollywood cameramen do, snow and cold and the light of the North look and feel different in a Scandinavian movie, and the original dialogs and the soundtrack sounded more natural in the Swedish version than the English spoken words. The other is acting. It is said that Daniel Craig brought life into Agent 007. It may be that the dose of life needed to make James Bond a real person is not enough to make investigator journalist Mikael Blomqvist the man in Larsson’s novel who overcomes his life being broken into pieces in order to find the truth. Michael Nyqvist who played the role in the Scandinavian film walked that inch towards fully melding into his character. Almost the same thing can be said about Rooney Mara‘s rendition of Lisbeth Salander – one of the best roles created in the last decade for a young actress. Mara makes us forget her other (nice girl) roles, while Noomi Rapace had made us forget that there is an actress behind the character.
Despite being better than most of the Hollywood remakes of non-American movies, David Fincher’s film stops one step apart from being as good as original, maybe at an invisible border that cannot really be crossed.