Usually I read the book before I watch the movie. The biggest problem with this is the book is almost always significantly better than the movie and this makes the movie less enjoyable to watch. I thought I would try something different this time. With the book eagerly awaits my attention from its spot on my bookshelf, I decided to watch the movie first. To top off everything else, there are two versions of this film, not just one. I watched the Swedish version earlier this week and went to see the American edition today. Keep in mind as I compare these two films that I have not read the book and I do not know which is a more faithful translation.
I was totally prepared for the American version to be a watered down, weak, faded copy of the 2009 Swedish film. That was definitely not the case. The Swedish film was more of an old fashioned suspense thriller. While watching it, it seemed a patient, detailed, terrific film. The American version is faster paced and seemingly more fleshed out. The Swedish edition spent more time and effort on the investigation of the crime that lead character Mikael Blomkvist was hired to look into. Its American counterpart tends to delve into the characters a little more – not only the two leads but some of the other characters as well. The American movie also has a more satisfying wrap-up.
The essential storyline is the same in both films and I assume it is the same one as in the book. Several details differ in the two versions but none really affect the plot at all. They are indeed two versions of the same story. I enjoyed both of them as I watched them separately and their tone and pace are their own. In my mind, I have a hard time picking one over the other because they each offer key elements which I like – the patient, detailed storytelling in one and the great character development in the other.
I will say one thing about both. Each had a couple of brutal rape scenes in them. To be honest, I was sure the American version would soften these scenes and probably leave most of them to our imagination. To his credit, director David Fincher did not waiver in presenting these scenes in a tough, gritty, unflinching manner, just as Niels Arden Oplev , the director of the 2009 film, did. Bravo to both men. These scenes were not easy to watch but they were imperative in the development of Lisbeth’s character.
I thought Michael Nyqvist was better, if slightly, than Daniel Craig in the lead role of Mikael Blomkvist. Rooney Mara surprisingly delivered a credible performance as Lisbeth, even in comparison to Noomi Rapace’s brilliant work. The role of Erika Berger was a much bigger role in the American version than the Swedish version and so there isn’t much to compare. I won’t compare some of the other key roles because I want to do nothing to that tips off the ending for those who haven’t watched either film or read the book. Let’s just leave it at that both set of actors performed extremely well.
If I were forced to pick one over the other, at this point I would choose the American version on the simple fact that its wrap up was much more complete and detailed. The end of the Swedish version left me a bit confused as I felt that Lisbeth acted out of character. It felt incomplete. The Swedish film did a better job at building up the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael but the American film was better about showing the extended results of that relationship. If you choose to watch just one, you really won’t go wrong with either one. Both were really good. Both a terrifically made films and are enjoyable in and of themselves. Now, one or the other may gain an advantage once I read the book. We will just have to see.
I always like to add a note to parents. Neither version is suitable for children. Both feature brutal rape scenes, violence, nudity, and a disturbing plot. They are rated R for very good reason and I strongly recommend caution when deciding about letting children under the age of 16 or 17 view these films.
Thanks for reading and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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