Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (movie adaptation)

Last night, I watched the movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and, I must say, it was wonderful.

I read the late Stieg Larsson's book last year, and I had reservations about how a thriller with such a byzantine plot would get translated as a motion picture. But Män som hatar kvinnor (as the movie is entitled in Swedish, adopting Larsson's original title for the series of novels he completed just before untimely death) really delivers, especially in the role of the titular character, Lisbeth Salander, played by Noomi Rapace.

The movie's title translates as "Men Who Hate Women," and there turn out to be plenty of such men in this mystery, which embroils a disgraced journalist with the disappearance of a teenage girl some 40 years ago.

Movies, which seem to operate under a strict time-limit (90 minutes is optimal, while 180 minutes is unmarketable), often do a disservice when their source material is a novel, especially one that clocks over the current norm of  300 pages. (And The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in its current English translation, is at 609 pages!) But the machinations of Larsson's plot are handled expertly under Niels Arden Oplev's direction, and the necessary compressions & omissions leave no gaping holes in the overall fabric of the story. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a meaty, entertaining two-and-a-half hours of cinema.

And the revelation here is Noomi Rapace's performance. She manages to inhabit & enliven Lisbeth Salander so that the character transcends her function as an avenging angel and becomes a flesh-and-blood person, tattoos and all. She becomes, like that sublime creation of Patricia Highsmith, Tom Ripley, a sociopath we really care about (though Lisbeth is by no means amoral -- in fact, she deals rather harshly with male transgressors, which makes for a memorably icky scene in the movie).

Lisbeth Salander is the heroine of Stieg Larsson's subsequent 2 novels in this series  -- The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- and Noomi Rapace has already played her in adaptations of those works, as well. I'm really looking forward to watching them as soon as they're available.

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