The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/Men Who Hate Women

This weekend I watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” with my parents. I read the books earlier this month and wanted to write about it, but waited to see the movie. This review will be a mish-mash between book and film, but mostly book.

My first reaction to the book was complete surprise over how violent it was. All I had heard about it before picking it up was that it was a completely engrossing thriller/suspense novel set in Sweden. I had been warned that it took some time to get into it. I was definitely not expecting graphic rape and abuse scenes, which is odd because you would expect some kind of warning or discussion of those two things to be a part of the “everyone’s reading this book” conversation.
I enjoyed it – the plot was not predictable and the characters were definitely interesting. Lisbeth Salander is not a typical heroine by any means. She’s tough and not very likeable, but she’s interesting. Blomkvist is no charming rapscallion either. He’s a kind of unpleasant, but hard working and with a strange sort of charm that attracts the ladies.
I just wish the title of the book was still “Men Who Hate Women” (the original Swedish title). Larsson wrote the trilogy as an attempt to expose the sexism in Sweden – to bust through the myth of an egalitarian society that many people perceive exists there. I understand the marketing decision behind changing the name of the book, but it’s really weird to compare the two titles.
Also strange was reading vs. watching the movie. The movie version (swedish) does not stand alone, to me. It requires a reading of the book to understand the motivations of the characters.
It’s interesting to see the characters act out on screen, but it’s clunky. The violence is uncomfortable, but I was surprised by how much more violent it was in my own mind, as I read. Maybe it is because I’m used to seeing twisted things on screen? I think it’s that as I read, as I put each word next to the other in my mind and understand what is happening, I am experiencing a more intimate relationship with the story than I could ever have by watching it happen on a TV screen. As I read, I cannot just turn off the movie, mute it or shut my eyes. The words are already in my head and I am already reacting to them.
I recommend the novel – it makes for interesting reading, especially if you do it with an eye towards the sexism Larsson is attempting to expose. He had a message when he wrote the books – they’re not just for fun.
It will be interesting to see what Hollywood does to the books. They might make a better movie, but a worse adaptation. That’s my guess.
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