Written by Films

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

One of my favourite series of novels of recent years has been Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I’ve read all three of the novels in hardback no less, having read interesting things about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ahead of its English language publication in January 2008.
By October last year, the final volume of the trilogy had been published and I’d read it apace.
In the meantime, I’d heard that Yellow Bird, the same people who’d produced the recent Swedish version of Wallander, were filming the trilogy. From what I heard, the initial idea was that the first film would get a cinema release, while the second two novels – effectively one big story – would follow as a mini-series on Swedish television.
The success of the film’s release in Sweden meant that they re-thought that idea, and instead released the two subsequent films in cinemas too. I believe, but may be wrong, that the eventual TV screenings in Sweden will be extended versions of the films.
Anyway, this is all a long way around of me saying that I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film for quite some time. When I was in Stockholm briefly last autumn, the first two films were already on DVD, but didn’t come with English subtitles, and the third film was opening in cinemas. So I’ve been impatiently waiting for the UK release.
This weekend, that release is finally upon us after several festival screenings over the last six months or so. This has all probably worked in favour of distributor, Momentum, as the books are now mainstays in the paperback fiction charts. The final book in the trilogy gets released in paperback in just three weeks’ time.
So my credentials and the back story out of the way: what should we make of the film?
Well it’s actually really done very well indeed. The books are chunky and there’s a great deal of plot and backstory to be found in them. So any film adaptation has to, of necessity, cut down on the book a great deal. But this is very faithful to the overall feel of the book.
Key in all this are two strong pieces of casting in Michael Nyqvist as “Kalle” Blomkvist, and especially Noomi Rapace as the mixed up Lisbeth Salander – the eponymous “Girl” of the books’ titles.
As the film opens, Blomkvist is personally responsible for libelling a major Swedish industrialist – something that sees him getting a prison sentence no less. But before he has to serve it, he hands his resignation from Millennium magazine and takes on a private commission to look into the background behind incidents that took place over forty years earlier amongst the Vanger family – one of whom may well be a murderer.
The film may seem long at the outset – at two and a half hours – but it speeds along at a fair pace, and is tightly directed. The revelations come thick and fast, and the central relationship is interesting. Salander, in particular, is such a fascinating character, that you want to learn more about her. There are plenty of hints about her background and life that won’t be opened up properly until later films. Yet the film works on its own too.
In terms of feel, something of the brooding feel of the Kenneth Brannagh Wallanders is present, and if you’ve enjoyed those excellent films, then you’ll love this.
If you’ve read the book, then you’ll certainly want to see this. If you haven’t, then you’re missing out on an excellent series of books anyway, and as a whodunnit, it’s a cracking story.
I can’t wait until I see films two and three…