The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson (born Karl Stig-Earland Larsson) was a journalist, anti-fascist and a former Trotskyite. He is best known for writing the Millennium Trilogy, a series of books that began with perhaps his most popular book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo details the adventures of radical left-wing journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his sidekick, Riot Grrrl hacker Lisbeth Salander, as they attempt to solve both a missing-persons case and a series of brutal murders. The book became a bestseller, both in Europe and in the U.S. – despite being published posthumously in 2005, as Larsson died of a heart attack the year before. Interestingly, Larsson never gave any indication that he was willing to have his works transformed into film, and he wanted all profits from the trilogy to go to the Swedish Socialist Party. This never happened.

The books proved so popular that two movie adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were released. The first film, made in 2009, was produced by a Sweden-based company called Yellow Bird. It starred Noomi Rapace as Salander and Michael Nyqvist as Blomkvist. It is a decent movie and reasonably true to the events in the novel with a standout performance by Rapace.

The second film, released by Columbia Pictures in collaboration with Yellow Bird in 2011 and directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button), stars Daniel Craig as Blomkvist (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Viggo Mortenson and Johnny Depp were all considered for the role) and Rooney Mara as Salander (Ellen Page, Natalie Portman, and the incomparable Jennifer Lawrence were also considered). Mara can also be seen in The Social Network and Youth in Revolt. This film includes an impressive cast featuring Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright Penn, and Stellan Skarsgård as the movie’s excellently creepy villain.

Fincher’s version of the story seems to focus more on character development than the earlier adaptation. It includes information about Blomkvist’s complicated romantic relationship with his editor Erika Berger, and focuses more on the character of Salander, making her more frightening than she was in the Swedish film and less reserved. One of the blessings of watching the American version is the fact that the viewer does not have to struggle with fast-moving subtitles and is simply able to enjoy the film’s stimulating dialogue.

This more recent cinematic version of Larsson’s thriller, also features excellent performances from both Craig, Mara and from everyone else involved, and I can’t help but feel that Rooney Mara deserved an Oscar for her excellent portrayal of the girl with the dragon tattoo. While Blomkvist is the central character in the story, Salander certainly takes centre stage as a damaged, anti-social, brilliant and independent young woman who just happens into his life. The viewer is shocked by her behaviours, but can’t help but cheer for her as she survives the many obstacles in her life.

Two thumbs up for two films that are well worth viewing.