The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (spoiler free)
I’ve recently read this book and seen both the Danish and American films. Boy do I have a lot to say about this giant pile of fantastic. A lot of what I’m going to say will probably be what a lot of other people have already said, but meh.
The first in a trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a story about two people:
Mikael Blomkvist, an ambitious journalist at Millenium magazine, who has accidentally put himself in a financial and professional rut due to a story he published.
And Lisbeth Salander, an investigative researcher at Milton Security Firm, who has socially inflexible morals and an attitude that silently screams, “do NOT fuck with me”.
The main plot is that an elderly owner of a large corporation, Henrik Vagner, asks Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, which happened over 40 years previous.
It didn’t take reading too much of the book for me to be reeled in by the story, but I have to be honest, the first 200 pages or so is like riding a bike, on high gear, up-hill. It’s all necessary information and plot; it all pushes the story forward. But it made me wonder not just what, but uhhhhhh, when? When is it going to build up? But once you get to that point, the proverbial top of the hill and the dots are all connected, reading becomes an effortless ride downhill that takes you like gravity because it’s just so damned good.
I read it casually every day on my way to class on the Blue Line and I finished it in just over a week. I was worried that the translation from Swedish to English would yeild awkward syntax and unintentionally humorous moments throughout the novel, but it read smoothly and without any wrinkles. The detail you’re given as a reader really makes you feel you’re right next to Mikael, studying old photos and wondering what the numbers mean. The way Larsson slightly changes his tone in the 3rd person narrative to each character when the equivalent of soliloquies and inner monologues is a wonderful alternative form of writing. I rarely gasp, laugh, and cringe while reading a book but this made me do all of these multiple times (and now I am currently reading The Girl Who Played With Fire).
I then watched the Danish version of the film. To start, as I see the accuracy of a movie portraying a book to be a category that does not belong in the criteria of what makes an objectively “good” movie, it was largely accurate to the book. As most adaptations go, there were little things that got cut out from the story that, I’d presume, the director didn’t find to be important enough to the story to matter. But in terms of movie criteria, the acting was above par, the music was fitting, it overall had a half indie/half small corporation support production value feeling to it, and was definitely worth watching. Not a bad watch at all. But I’m not in a rush to watch it again any time soon.
I then, finally, let myself watch a preview for David Fincher’s adaptation. The second I finished watching it, I was more psyched than an 8-year-old with ADD and an obsession for flashing lights taking a field trip to a strobe light warehouse. Yes, I was that excited. Don’t judge me.
Not only did I have immediate faith in the movie because Fincher was directing, but how the actress Rooney Mara was made up. When I saw the first shot of her, I saw Lisbeth Salander and not the cute college girl from Social Network. It’s rare thing to watch a movie adaptation and have just one of the characters look exactly like you imagined them—at lest, for me, it is. Overall, Fincher’s version is quite a bit more accurate than the Danish version, notwithstanding the given changes and missing portions of story that are in an adaptation. It also plays to the drama in a much better than the Danish version. Much of this, I attribute to the superb acting in the film. Rooney Mara has certainly done more than put her foot in the film industry door by portraying this wonderfully off-beat, complicated, break-the-motherfucking-mold character, with Daniel Craig doing a pretty good job as well (though the fact that he did not attempt a Swedish accent was a little disappointing, but hey, you can’t get everything), and a pretty excellent supporting cast.
Also, about the music. YES. GO LISTEN TO THE SOUNDTRACK. RIGHT NOW. If you don’t know who Trent Reznor is, then you’re either too young to know NIN or you live under a rock. On Mars. He did a spectacular job creating not just music, but an infused soundscape that really made the feeling of mystery and suspense become real.
What makes this story so compelling for me is that not only is the overall mystery of the story a very compelling one that includes dozens of details that spawn branches of possibilities and keep you right up to speed with what the characters learn as they learn it, but it is Lisbeth Salander herself.
She isn’t someone who spoon-feeds the audience (or the characters in story) any part of her life. She’s someone you discover as you go through the story. She’s got more alternative characteristics than a writer can dream of. She’s introverted, has a strict apathy for the average living person, is unwavering in her moral beliefs, and is willing to do anything to get the job done, which includes not having any fucks to give when it comes to people’s personal property and privacy.
To all who are reading, I suggest you do these things, in this order:
1- Read the book
2- See the Danish film
3- See David Fincher’s
As you’ve read, that is the order I experienced it in, and I think it’s the best way to go about it. If you don’t read, well then poop on you cause you should read more. If you’re a strict movie goer and don’t care for foreign films, you’ll still get a really fulfilling experience by just seeing the American version.
This story and set of characters has without a doubt moved up high on my list very quickly. The book is written excellently and David Fincher knows how to direct in the ‘full of win’ sector. Go read. Go watch. It’s amazing.