Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Phenomenon


In 2004, Swedish reporter Stieg Larsson died of a massive heart attack. He was 50 years old. In his lifetime  he was primarily known for reporting on violent fringe Nazi groups operating in Sweden for the news magazine EXPO, which he had founded.

When he died, he left behind three completed novels, remnants of a fourth, and outlines for two additional books, all part of a mystery series about magazine editor/reporter Mikal Blomkvist and his enigmatic research assistant Lisbeth Salander.

A year after his death, his first book Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) was published in Sweden and became a runaway hit. The book was translated into English and re-titled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  The book dealt with the middle aged reporter Blomkvist and the youthful punk rocker Salander working to solve a forty-year-old mystery. The book was aptly described by one reviewer as a cross between the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lamb.

The years that followed saw the publication of his second book Flickan Som Lekte Med Elden (literally, The Girl Who Played With Fire) and  his third book Luftslottet Som Sprängdes (The Air-Castle That Exploded) which was published in English as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. All three were best sellers.

Earlier this year, it was announced that American film maker David Fincher would make the first of three movies based on the trilogy for Sony Films, as the follow-up to his movie, The Social Network. The film is set to star Daniel Craig (famous for being the latest James Bond) and Rooney Mara (who appeared in Fincher’s The Social Network.)

While audiences wait for the 2011 release of the American version, they might want to check out the Swedish versions which have already been completed. The first two movies are already on DVD and the third is currently showing in select art house venues.

The movies star Micheal Nyqvist as Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as Salander -the titular "girl with the dragon tattoo."  Nyqvist looks alot like Daniel Craig and is believable in his role as an investigative journalist who may have gotten more than he bargained for. But the stand out here is Rapace who brings both a sense of menace and vulnerability to her role as the pierced and tattooed Salander.

As with the Swedish import Let the Right One In which was remade by American film makers and released last month as Let Me In,  its a shame that there isn't a larger American audience for these hits of world cinema. Each one of these films represent compelling story telling and unique visions by top notch filmmakers, and one of a kind performances by appealing, charismatic actors. What's more, most DVD copies feature both subtitled and English audio (for those who don't like reading their dialogue.)

While the casual movie viewer waits till 2011 to see the first of the American adaptations, I would highly recommend the Swedish originals to more discerning viewers -or at least two those who are ahead of the curve of the next big thing. 



Jacqui said...

You write so well about these books that I'm tempted to read them, even though I know how dark they are! Thank you for sharing your thoughts; it's always a pleasure to read your prose!

Bob Rose said...

Thanks, Sweetie!