The Girl With the Better Film: The Fight for the Better Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Adaptation
By: Gabbie Zeller
It has been almost a year since the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo hit domestic screens. The phenomenon has not died down, and there is talk of making the rest of the trilogy into American films. Swedish versions of the film have already been made with much success worldwide. The question remains to most–which film is superior: the American or Swedish version?
First of all, which one is most similar to the novel? It may not seem like a very important question to those of you who have not read the book; but, if you are anything like me, you will want to know if the movie is similar to the book. (In case you have not read the novel, it’s essentially about a reporter and computer hacker who come together in solving a murder set in Sweden.) Having read all of the novels, I have come up with an answer—The Swedish version is as close to the book as one can get. Sure, a few minor things have been changed, but as with any adapted novel, you cannot include everything in the film. The slight changes were made to “stitch up” any loose ends cutting out details would leave. In contrast, the American version proceeds to change major plot points such as the ending. Yeah, believe it, they changed the ending. The American film also changed some important details obvious to anyone who has read the novel. I won’t say more, as I do not wish to spoil anything for future readers or viewers…
Let’s move on to the tonal differences in the films. First, the American version had a great set of opening credits. The version of “Immigrant Song” sung by Karen O, of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, set the tone for the film perfectly. The song is dark, disturbing, and foreboding. Unfortunately, the rest of the film does not have the same tone as the opening credits thus being a total letdown. The characters feel like they are trying to put themselves into this fictional world, but just don’t have enough intensity. The Swedish film hits the tone of the novel spot on. Even with having read the novel and knowing the outcome, the entire time I was on edge of my seat.
The acting in the Swedish film is much superior to the American version. Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander is incredible. All you have to do is just look at her face and her body language to see how damaged she is. Rooney Mara was adequate in the American film, but completely lacked Lisbeth’s intensity. She seemed more sensitive in ways that Lisbeth was not in the novel. I believe Mara is a good actress—just not a good version of Lisbeth. Lisbeth was not quite the same person in the American film as she was in the novel. It is not entirely Ronney’s fault; the writing of the screenplay didn’t hold up to the Swedish screenplay.
It seems that all of the actors in the American version were almost up to par, but somehow fell short. As much as I love Daniel Craig as an actor, I feel like he was not a good fit for Mikael Blomkvist—the tough reporter and owner of Millennium Magazine. Sure, I pictured Mikael looking more attractive like Daniel Craig, rather than the Swedish actor, Michael Nyqvist. But, Mikael appears as an average man in the Swedish film which holds true to the novel’s description of Mikael. Everyone in the American film looks too refined unlike the Swedish version where you feel as if you could run into these people on the street.
Along with character portrayals falling short, a major plot point related to Harriet is also missing from the American movie. Mikael had actually previously met her when he was very young, and this helps him uncover the truth. The Swedish film covers everything the American film does, but gives you more insight into how Lisbeth and Mikael figure out what happened.
As many problems as I have had with the American version of the film, nothing made me angrier than when the music supervisors decided to play “Orinoco Flow” by New Age, artist Enya, in what is basically the final sequence of the film. The song just does not fit, and as a really big Enya fan, I can’t listen to the song the same way again. I can’t even begin to give you an answer as to why they thought it would be a good fit. Look it up and listen to it for yourself, and then think about the very intense moment at the end of the novel when all is revealed. You will feel the same way I do, believe me.
When it comes to these two films, it is clear as to which one is the better of the two: the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you want to see the American film’s inaccurate representation of the story and its characters, actors that are not quite up to par, and a watered down storyline, then be my guest. However, if you want to see the book personified on screen, watch the Swedish film. It is one of the best book to screen adaptations I have ever seen; it is worth seeing whether or not you have read the novel. Please just suck it up and read the subtitles, you will thank me! The other two books have already been made into films, so you can continue the trilogy after you watch the first one. Believe me when I say you will want to watch the next two films right away. So please, do me a solid: take a deep breath, and watch some subtitles.
About the Writer: My name is Gabriella Zeller, and I am a freshman English major at DePaul. I am from Peoria, IL, three hours south of Chicago. I love to write short stories and hope to go into editing/publishing one day. I believe that to be a good writer one must be an avid reader. Reading is an important hobby instilled in me at a young age by my family. I enjoy reading all types of books and here are a few of my favorites: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Starter for Ten by Andrew Nicholls, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Steig Larsson.