In just about a week the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is released in theaters nationwide. I’m anxious. I wish I could say that I’m really excited that Stieg Larsson’s book still have steam in them and are gaining more and more fans, but this interpretation of the story is already not sitting well with me.
I’ve read the Millennium series and I have watched all three Swedish films. I feel very close to this story because not only did it own my life when I was reading them, but because I grew so attached to Lisbeth Salander specifically. I know she wouldn’t really know what to do with my affections or adoration of her, she’d likely shove me away and disappear but that’s part of what I love about her. She has been hurt, she is damaged, but my God is she clever. She’s an anti-social, computer hacking, socially inept, extremely intelligent and determined survivor.
I thought the Swedish films did a very good job at staying true to the books. Yes, there were a few things that made me yell “this didn’t happen like this in the book!” but they were most loyal, I think, to Lisbeth Salander’s character.
Lisbeth doesn’t do small talk. She doesn’t speak unless she finds it necessary and then she rapidly spits out information. A look is typically sufficient to get her point across. I’ve seen a few different versions of the American movie’s trailer and already I feel like Lisbeth is talking too much. She’s almost chatty. That’s not the Lisbeth I read about. Maybe it's just them trying to fit a lot into a couple minutes of a commercial. I don’t want to doubt Rooney Mara’s performance or say she’s bad for the role.
I actually just think it’s the filmmaker, David Fincher, and the advertisers that I dislike. One day I watched a trailer with a friend who I got hooked on Larsson and she said, “I really love the Swedish movies but the scenery in this one looks so much better.” That may be. Maybe the budget was bigger. I don’t know. Yes, it looked pretty.
There’s this one part in one of the trailers that I’ve actually only seen on television once. I can't seem to find it. The credits and release date flash on the screen and just when you think it’s over, you see Lisbeth lying on a bed with Michael Blomkvist while looking at a laptop and tells him to put his hand up her shirt again. That right there – I don’t see my Lisbeth saying. She was still focusing her attention on the computer screen and did not say “please,” I’ll give you that. But still, it seems different.
I can only compare what I have seen. And I have seen a lot of naked skin. It seems the PR team for the American film thought they’d go with the typical “sex sells” bit because here’s a magazine cover with Rooney Mara bra-less and in just an open leather jacket, and here’s a photo of her getting a tattoo (the dragon tattoo?) with her shirt up and her pants down, and why is she shirtless in the snow here? And here’s a movie poster with her completely topless with Daniel Craig.
There’s been an argument floating around tumblr about how the movie poster with Lisbeth Salander/Rooney Mara topless is not supposed to be sexual and it is meant to be jarring because she doesn’t look sweet or coy about her nudity like female nudity tends to be portrayed, instead she seems to dare the viewer to come closer. Yes, this is true and yet, it’s not just her standing alone, is it? No, she’s got Blomkvist standing right behind her with a protective arm about her collarbone. My Lisbeth doesn’t cuddle. Also, the Lisbeth in the books really loves her layers of clothes. It doesn’t make sense to me to show her like this.
Why does this new actress have to show her tits to get attention for a serious role? Good old sexism? I think.
If you see those promotional movie posters and photographs for the American movie and then compare them to the Swedish ones, you cannot help but see a strong contrast in message. With the American ones I see skin and tits, edgy yet soft enough to be a sort of mainstream sexy, and strong eyes. With the Swedish ones I see layers of black clothing, a mix of an angry “fuck off” and a quieter “just leave me alone,” and strong eyes. Larsson wrote Lisbeth Salander to be a mix of strong and intelligent survivor like a cunning fox and some fragility like that of an abandoned child. I can see that in the images that come out of the Swedish films. I can’t see that in the American ones.
I get that it must have been a difficult place to be to reprise a role that so many people had grown to know through the books and the Swedish films. I can understand that this movie is the filmmaker’s own interpretation of the Larsson trilogy and not an attempt to remake the Swedish films.
But from what I’ve seen promotionally regarding Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I’m left wondering of the filmmaker, is that all he took from her character?
I hope I'm wrong.