First off, if you have yet to read Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, that’s fine, because I haven’t read the book either. That being said, obviously my lack of knowledge of the book plays a role in how I viewed the presentation of both David Fincher’s new movie and the original 2009 Swedish version of the film with the same name.
Both films plots center around a murder mystery that happened 40 years ago. One which has haunted Henrik Vanger, uncle of Harriet Vanger, who disappeared during a parade and was never to be seen again. So, Henrik hires the good but troubled journalist Mikael Blomkvist to assist with researching Harriet’s death, since he has not stopped thinking about it and looking into it for four decades.
While there is obviously more to the plot – such as the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, a computer hacker who comes to aid Blomkvist in his unraveling of the mystery – and the large and powerful Vanger family, which is loaded with distrust and possibly tons of secrets, I’d rather focus on how the films are presented and compare them, versus what happens in the film. That being said, this will be a spoiler filled post I am sure.
Both film versions present the material similarly early on, however, Fincher’s version lends more depth to the character of Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and his sexual relationship with his editor (Robin Wright-Penn). The original version leaves this to be highly-implied and not nearly as easy to decipher.
Both films treat Blomkvist as a reporter scorned, but in the Swedish version, Blomkvist has a 6-month jail stint hanging over his head, which he eventually serves. This does not happen in Fincher’s film. Also, Lisbeth Salander, the afore-mentioned tattooed girl, has a troubled past in both. She is much more silent in the original film, with a bit more depth and expression of character in Fincher’s film. This is to be expected I think, due to audience discrepancies with the way we accept material.
The settings are similar, both snow-filled in northern Stockholm, but Fincher’s has the slick feel of modern money, IKEA smooth furniture, while the original film places a little more emphasis on old-school money. The cottage where Blomkvist stays is more in the open in the first film, where in Fincher’s the cottage is “guarded” in a sense by Henrik’s mansion.
Both films treat the violence appropriately, gruesome in some respects, perhaps a bit more gratuitous in Fincher’s film. Salander’s relationship with Blomkvist, a key component of the film, is where the films differ primarily, in my view. What made Fincher’s film so strong, is the change that Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth displayed and her desire to become close with Blomkvist. The ending in that film, though slightly predictable, is gut-wrenching. In the Swedish version, Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) desires Noomi Rapace’s Salander more, and she is more passive and distant with their interactions, despite the physical relationship. In essence, in Fincher’s film, she wanted him but couldn’t have him, and in the Swedish version, it was the opposite.
Both films end similarly in terms of other plot points, with Salander looting money, but in the Swedish version she is off on her own and in Fincher’s film, heartbreak prevails. Despite very similar run times, I felt the Fincher film had more characterization and depth overall. Both films are effective and well done, but in my mind, Fincher’s was the film of the year in 2011, from what I saw, while the Swedish film is essentially just a solid thriller.