Sunday, June 20, 2010

[review] The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This is the film version of Stieg Larsson's book, Män som hatar kvinnor [men who hate women] is less direct, but more appealing is the English title for the movie & book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Taken in that order:

Movie has a pared-down version of the plot, excellently chosen to maintain a seamless story line without the parallel line. Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist, is convicted of libel and en route to jail for a few months when approached to investigate a 40-year old murder. Eventually persuaded, he heads off to rural Sweden. Concurrently Lisbet Salander, a bizarre younger woman is having horrific issues with a guardian, no explaination is provided as to why she has one. Eventually the two work together on the mystery of a missing young woman who has been murdered. Salander, a computer whiz, and Blomkvist, the star investigator, apply their respective talents. The clan's patriarch just wants to know who killed his beloved niece before he dies, even if no other justice can be served. Eventually we realize that the mystery must be closer to home than anticipated as someone starts trying to run Blomkvist/Salander out of town and off the story.

I've never been to Sweden and don't speak Swedish - this limits my opinion of the set design/location choices/script. If Minnesota was attractive to Swedish immigrants, I can see why. Mr.Gopher is the person to ask about these aspects.

The script - in the sense of the translated language and the given plot - were good, coherent and internally consistent. The character development starts in the middle of a story in several senses: Blomkvist is convicted, but we don't know the actual reason; Salander has a guardian, but we don't know why. We just pick up in the middle of their respective stories before they merge.

I'm surprise this got an R - rather than NC-17 rating - for "disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity and language" - basically sex & violence. Our limits for sexual explicitness are down right Victorian compared to Europe & we're a nation with an appalling appetite for violent movies, but usually not the two together. The sexual violence in one scene actually shocked me; the sex/nudity certainly didn't.

A good movie, and mostly enjoyable. A good story with an ending I didn't expect.

Gopher Rating:
3 - definitely see it on video

The source material book has, in addition to the movie plot, a concurrent, parallel story line. In this, Blomkvist's libel conviction plays a much larger role, as this legal problem haunts him personally and professionally. The man requesting the murder investigation entices him by offering information to disprove the libel claim and thereby restore his journalistic reputation. Salander's strange behavior is presented gradually in historic contexts, making her more sympathetic. The sex and violence make more sense within the deeper story here. Lifting the legal undercurrent wholesale from the story makes the characters thinner than Larsson's depth gives. But in a movie one doesn't expect the same depth.

There are one or two instances of utterly bizarre words where I think the translator picked the wrong word from a dictionary for an 1) old-fashioned term and 2) colloquial English. Larsson's writing style is extremely detailed. Where possible, he fleshes out the physical scenes with specifics. E.g., He doesn't simply mention someone's having breakfast, he provides the list of food. E.g. Not only does someone furnish her flat from IKEA, he specifies which furniture lines. A set designer's work is limited trying to figure out how the author imagined it.

The Author gave this (and 3 other books) as a graduation present. It is often intriguing what people think you'll like. What they think your literary tastes are. In this case, perhaps more so than usual, since a writer is the gift-giver. This falls into the category "I'm glad I got this" type of present.

Gopher Rating
2.5 - somewhere between 'definitely read this' and 'you'll probably read it more than once'.
This rating is more on the fence than usual. I know I'll read it again; if you like mystery stories you probably will as well.

I just requested the 3r novel from Larsson; within 1 hour I became #1449 of 1451 with 153 books available. 29 weeks before I would get it, assuming everyone keeps it for the full 3 weeks.
By the time I get the copy, it will probably be out in paperback.
Oh, my ... I can request the large print version and be #264 of 264 with 25 copies available and ... and.. 32 weeks before I could get it.

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