I’ve often considered reading the best-selling Millennium trilogy of novels simply for the fine reason of being able to have informed conversations about it. In lieu of having time to read Scandinavian detective novels tainted by rape-revenge-fantasies, I watched the Swedish-produced movie adaptation equivalent and then its David Fincher directed equivalent.
I am a big fan of David Fincher. I even love Panic Room.
But it was interesting to watch these two movies back to back.
Both are quite tabloid thrillers. The original 2009 Swedish movie features the better Lisbeth actress in the unstoppable Noomi Rapace. The highly stylized Rooney Mara of the Hollywood adaptation can’t hold a candle to her.
Remember that these stories have been voraciously read by tens of millions of people. The broad thrust is well known and the original content, while intricate, is fairly straightforward. But in every detail imaginable, from actors’ performance, to narrative elaboration, to major plot developments, the US movie always assumes we’re dumber.
“The man who is now known as Sweden’s Charles Ponzi…” is a line that could only seem sensible to the kind of American who thinks Aaron Sorkin is a great writer. Ponzi is not a character in the European imagination. But this stray line at the end of the film seems to capture the stupidity of the US version.
The final scene between Lisbeth and her State guardian in the US movie is an even better example. It simply couldn’t happen in the Scandinavian movie. One is inspired to make Zizek-esque broad conclusions about the neurotic individualism of American society.
Or we could talk about the twist at the end where Lisbeth reveals her resilience in a new way. It is alluded to fairly broadly, one would think, in the initial movie. In the second version, it is drawn out in stupid detail, lest we don’t follow what is happening.
Here is photographic evidence of the simplism [sic] of the American movie. There is a key character that has to be located. There is a photo of said character. In the photo, she is wearing a certain coat. When she is tracked down in the next scene, she is wearing a similar coat. So you can follow.
In every way, Fincher goes out of his way, to make his version of this story glossier, slicker, smoother and simpler. When you have a violent female vigilante as your protagonist, this tactic quickly enters into swampish moral territory. Aesthetic choices are always moral, never more so than when you have to deal with sexual violence.
I don’t regret watching either movie, but even the crass product placement of Purell and Apple in the US version grates. Neither film grabbed me. But the original is best, in practically every single way.
Your Correspondent, All he ever wanted was his rug back