The Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, translates as “Men Who Hate Women”. Somewhere along the line the title for the English translation of the wildly popular, bestselling novel was changed to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
It's this difference in how stories are packaged in Sweden vs. North America that's making me insist you go see this Swedish version of the story*. Hollywood is making a version too; it's slated for release in 2012. But I can't imagine how Hollywood won't end up making a movie more about a tattoo than about men who hate women.
My friend Michelle introduced me to the book last summer. I was sitting in her living room and she raved about it something like this, “Kim, you have to read this. It's not a genre you usually read [crime/mystery], but you have to. For this book has the most kick-ass female protagonist EVAR.”
I read it in three days.
It's a very good novel, worthy of international craze. But here's what sets it apart, and this is why you should see the Swedish movie:
Alongside the gripping whodunit is a powerful portrayal of sexual violence. The entire story really is about men who hate women, and who, in their hatred, beat, rape and psychologically abuse them. It's about how disgusting it all is. And it's about women fighting back. And it's about one woman, in particular, who's like no other woman I've encountered in fiction in any medium. And this woman should remain uncompromised when she's portrayed, just as she was brilliantly portrayed in the Swedish film.
I don't think Hollywood can do this story justice. Not when the Swedes have already created the best film adaptation of a book I've ever seen. There shouldn't be focus groups influencing the making of this film. There shouldn't be a toning-down of the sexual violence to attain a more box-office-friendly MPAA rating. There shouldn't be a glossing-over of the subtleties of the relationships between characters because there's an industry perception that Americans can't handle ambiguity and non-comformity.
Män som hatar kvinnor, which came out last year in Europe, was the highest-grossing film in Swedish history and was 2009's top-grossing film in all of Europe. It isn't a “small” film. It isn't an “art” film. It's a blockbuster. It's a blockbuster with graphic scenes of sexual violence without sexualization. It's a blockbuster where the female protagonist saves the male protagonist's ass, and it's not an issue. It's a blockbuster without glossy hair.
I think it's dumb that the North American publisher felt the need to change the name of the novel. But at least that's all that was changed – the story inside was unaltered. A film adaptation, though, now that's a different story. A film adaptation that really does become a story about a girl with a dragon tattoo will be a shame. A real shame.
Even if you hate “foreign” movies and you can't stand subtitles, make an exception for this film. And do it fast, as I fear it won't last long in North American theatres.
* I can only speak to North-American cinema; I'd love to hear from English-speakers from the rest of the world about this!