Monday, July 19, 2010

From Book to Film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After putting down the telephone the eighty-two-year-old birthday boy sat for a long time looking at the pretty but meaningless flower whose name he did not yet know. Then he looked up at the wall above his desk. There hung forty-three pressed flowers in their frames. Four rows of ten, and one at the bottom with four. In the top row one was missing from the ninth slot. Desert Snow would be number forty-four. [excerpt from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Reg Keeland, Translator)
Vintage, 2009
Crime Fiction; 644 pgs

Synopsis from the publisher:
A murder mystery, family saga, love story, and a tale of financial intrigue wrapped into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

Harriet Vanger, scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pieced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
One of the most talked about books of the last two years, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was on my list of must read books this year. When the book was making the rounds at my office, I decided to take time out to read it. I admit to being skeptical. All the hype and then reading a few dissenting opinions planted a seed of doubt in my mind. I should have known better. I love a good mystery thriller, and in the end I was pleasantly surprised. I went into the novel not really knowing what it was about, only having heard about the two main characters and the violent rape scene. The rape scene wasn't nearly as graphic as I had been led to believe, although, as with any scene like that, it's hard not to be impacted by it. The violence and the victimization were very disturbing to say the least.

As for Lisbeth and Mikael . . . You can count me among those who are quite taken with them. Stieg Larsson spends quite a bit of time developing his characters and it was impossible not to grow attached to them. Both are extremely flawed but have a strong sense of justice, even if of their own variety. Lisbeth is such a strong female character and yet also very vulnerable. She struck me as a woman I would not want to mess with and yet also as one I wished I could protect. It makes for an interesting dichotomy. Mikael was a bit more of a playboy but he was always diligent and aware.

I especially liked the depth of the mystery, the way it unfolded. Stieg Larsson had a penchant for detail and left hardly a stone unturned. It fit well with the attention to detail his characters gave their work. I found this novel to be intelligent, suspenseful and entertaining.

Of course, I couldn't leave it with just reading the book. I had to watch the movie too. I expected great things after hearing so many positive reviews, and I was not disappointed. Noomi Rapace was perfect in the role as Lisbeth. She looked just as I imagined her and played the character with such strength and vulnerability that I felt as if I was reading the book again. Michael Nyquist as journalist Mikael Blomkvist also did a good job.

The violent scenes in the movie were much more dramatic than I had imagined them in my head as I read the novel. I felt the same intense anger and heartache in both, however.

The book and movie are not exactly the same, although they run along a very similar course. There were some changes I was glad to see, while others I could have done without. Isn't that always the way though? More of Lisbeth's back story is revealed in the movie than it was in the book, although it didn't come as a surprise. I wonder if perhaps that bit of information is in the second book (which I haven't yet read). Regardless, the movie was very well done. The proper mood and tone were captured and the Swedish landscape was breathtaking.

I chose to watch the movie in subtitles, but for those who have a problem with reading script while watching a movie, there is also a dubbed version on the DVD. I admit to being a little leery of the American movie version that is in the planning stages. I am perfectly content with the Swedish version and am not sure I trust Hollywood to do the book justice.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original title: Men Who Hate Women) (Foreign, Mystery, Thriller - 2009; rated R; directed by Niels Arden Oplev; screenplay written by Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg; novel written by Stieg Larsson)

Rating for both book and movie:
* (Very Good +)

Source: Although I have my own copy of the book which I bought myself, the copy I read was actually borrowed from a coworker. The movie is one I purchased for my own viewing.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Great review, Wendy! I've yet to read this series, though I've heard nothing but raves about it!

    Last I checked, the movie will only be out at the local cinemas in mid August! Maybe that'd give me some time to read the first book, haha.

  2. I am more than happy with the Swedish version of the movie as well. I am not going to be rushing out to watch a Hollywood version!

  3. I have this one on my kindle to read and like you, have been hesitant because of all of the hype. I am glad to see you liked it. Now I am sure I will too. I knew they were making a movie, but hadn't realized it was already done! I agree, Hollywood will likely change the story, glitz it up, etc!

  4. I'm so glad you read the book. Now you have to read them all. I definitely thought the violent scenes were much harder to stomach on screen than in the book, as it was SO graphic. They did make some changes in the movie that I just didn't understand the point. One great example was that whole car crash scene at the end. Irritated me a little, but I still did love the movie. I am pretty emotional about what Hollywood is going to do to the US version. I fear they will totally screw it up. If they mess up the casting, I won't even go see it. I'll just stick with the Swedish version, thank you!

  5. I am like you --- I have read so much hype about this book that I am afraid it is setting me up for disappointment.

    Great review - you made me realize that I need to read it for myself. I have the paperback edition sitting on my shelves now. Perhaps this fall would be a good time to tackle it.

  6. I've read all the Stieg Larsson books and liked them very much. The violence is quite graphic, but like Sandy above, I found the visual images of it much more upsetting. My husband and I watch the Dragon Tattoo movie this weekend. He has not read the books. when the violence happened, he said, there is going to be payback for this right? Or I'm outta here. He had a hard time with it. It was a little too real.

    As an additional note, we did watch the dubbed version and it was fine I think. I'm on the fence about a US version. I suspect the story will suffer and I'm not sure I can stand to see Brad Pitt or someone as Blomqvist. LOL

  7. I haven't read these books yet, but hopefully soon...I wanted to see the movie, but it was out at the video no luck for me there.

  8. I will watch this as soon as I read it but I haven't decided when. It seems to be a must-read for many bloggers lately.

  9. I loved the movie also (and yes, it does add elements from later books). I was so impressed that they managed to get Mikael and Lisbeth just right, because there would be pretty strong viewer expectations. So often it doesn't work out!

  10. I bought this book when it came out in paperback but have yet to read it. When I do though I will be sure to follow it up with the movie! Thanks for your great reviews of both!

  11. We just watched the movie last night. That was so good and according to me, I'm going to refuse to see any Hollywood version! :) I just can't imagine another actress doing as wonderful a job with the character as Noomi Rapace did.

    Are you going to continue on to book two? I thought it was a great sequel but unfortunately I didn't like the third one too much.

  12. I missed this movie when it was out at the theater, so now I am waiting to rent it. I am so glad that you loved the book and the movie. I do think that Salander is one of the most interesting creations in fiction!

  13. Glad to see you enjoyed this one. I still haven't read it, like you I am worried due to all the hype. However, my husband read it recently. Now..this is a guy who up until last month has not read a book since college. I asked for his thoughts on this book and got this:
    it was okay, i think you would really like it. the girl character is someone i see you really liking. it was an odd story because it was very much a who done it kind of story that got real dark.

    now..early on when I asked how he liked the book he commented that it was a bit sherlock holmes-ish and was for old people, so I responded to the above asking if he still felt that way and he said this:
    it is sherlock holmes and for old people. my guess is that the second and third books are better because the girl is the best character and it seemed to take the author a while to realize that. i'm pretty sure you will like this better than the passage because this seems more up your alley.

    haha! not sure how I feel about being lumped in with the "old people"

  14. I've had this book for a while and need to read it. I'm afraid the movie might be too graphic for me though.

  15. I did think the movie was more violent than the book read to me.

    And I did think they got the casting right on. I was a big fan of Lisbeth and Mikael. Larsson did an awesome job creating those characters ... despite their flaws, you just like them.

    And yes .. you do get a bit of Lisbeth's back story in the movie that is covered in Book 2. In fact, Book 2 and 3 are really about Lisbeth and Mikael trying to help her out of a (major) jam.

  16. I think i saw that the local library has the movie and I was thinking of grabbing it. I have not read the book. have seen the audio at the library online audio book site but it was longer than I had time for then.

  17. You know what, Wendy? I bought this book the first instance it was published and I haven't read it until now! I'm glad I brought it with me to Penang and I want to get started ASAP. Thanks for the review (and the reminder to read).

  18. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Wendy. I just finished listening to this one after reading the book several months ago and my reading experience was very different from the listening one. In reading I felt like there were TOO many details and plotlines, but this didn't bother me while listening--it seemed to flow a little better. I agree, though, that the character development is superb.

    Not sure I'll see the movie--we watched a trailer the other day and it looks pretty intense. I kind of wonder about the US version now that the Swedish version has been released in some theaters here. Seems redundant, but I'm sure it'll make a buck or two! :)

  19. I must be the last person on earth who still hasn't read any of this series. I have the first two books on my shelf but can't seem to bring myself to read them quite yet. I'll probably read them in a few years when all of the good buzz has died down. I like a good, mystery thriller also so I know based on your review that I will enjoy this one.

  20. Hopefully one of these days I'll get to the second book in the trilogy! I'm so glad I finally caved in and read this one.

    Thank you everyone for your comments!


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