Sunday, April 25, 2010

Män som hatar kvinnor... finally

Män som hatar kvinnor - Men Who Hate Women - was retitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for the English version.

The true title reflects the movie and the book, the second is a glimpse of art on counter-culture Goth and computer hacker, Lisabeth Salander.

I read the book and thought it a little slow. The story got bogged down in extraneous descriptions and minutiae of lead character Mikael Blomkvist's day. Thankfully, all that's been cut out of the movie and distilled down to its essential parts.

The spiel: Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

The makers of the film have done an excellent job. The book has complex plots all weaved together to form a fascinating story arc. The film touches on these aspects and sets up the next movie The Girl Who Played With Fire with brief glimpses. However, those who haven't read Stieg Larsson's trilogy might be a little dismayed at some of the near miraculous resolutions. For example, the instant decryption of an important clue by Salander. She has a photographic memory, but that is only touched on in the film. I'm guessing the film makers assumed the majority of Scandinavia read the books.

Some of the scenes are brutal. The film does not shy away from the sexual violence that's integral to the story line. On the big screen, it's confronting. (I wonder how Hollywood is going to deal with it? The U.S. version is in development and due for release in 2012.) Salander is certainly ruthless in dealing with violence perpetrated against her.

The original title, Men Who Hate Women, should have been kept; the current title reflects nothing more than a curiosity. Throughout the books and the film, thoughtless and deliberate violence against women is explored. Blomkvist is almost a peaceful raft floating in the sea of blood and brutality, a refuge for Salander. That doesn't mean she needs a man to save her - her revenge is as nasty as the crime committed against her! She'll get justice her own way.

I would suggest reading the book before seeing the film for a better understanding. It's the first book-to-film I've appreciated in a long, long time.

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