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May. 24 2010 - 9:31 am | 605 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’: Lisbeth Salander makes my day

Men Who Hate Women

I am totally in love with Lisbeth Salander, the tiny terminator who propelled the late Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson’s thrillers to international renown. There she is –Audrey Hepburn with a nose ring, an Olsen twin on steroids. Capable of kicking any guy’s ass, and doing so as often as she can, Lisbeth keeps lists. There are the horrific rapists and wife beaters she plans to get even with–and the every day jerks who treat her with contempt at worst, condescension at best.

Again and again, Lisbeth, an expert computer hacker, makes a note to “investigate” an offender. That means he–and it’s always a he–will end up the target of a tax collector, or something far worse. She is, as her friend and occasional lover Mikael Blomkvist puts it, “the woman who hates men who hate women.”

In Larsson’s fictional world, Lisbeth is high functioning autistic, a brilliant mathematician who can’t handle the most basic social interactions. I’d just call her single-minded, a pro at what she does.

Lisbeth is a super-heroine for our time, a feminist avenger. Noomi Rapace, in the Swedish film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” perfectly inhabits this odd idol’s skin. Director Niels Arden Oplev keeps all the book’s violence–and then some–never pulling back from darkness nor sprucing up the stark landscape. The result is one of the best screen translations of a novel I’ve ever seen– right up there with “Silence of the Lambs” in its skin-crawling accuracy.

But what is so refreshing about the Swedish movie is the number of real faces. Even the hero is a guy with pock-marked skin–and he’s surrounded by women and men who could frequent any nearby 7-11. Let’s just hope, in Hollywood’s planned English language version, the producers don’t pretty it up–Tom Cruise as the hapless journalist, Lindsay Lohan in karate-kicking Louboutins.

Give me a pudgy Russell Crowe, at least. As for Lisbeth–there’s been talk of Carey Mulligan, but I’d suggest the Canadian actress Alison Pill. She’s done Martin McDonagh, so she knows from dark, and she’s certainly got the body type.

In the meantime, I’m just happy to have the image of Rapace’s black-eyed Lisbeth in my mind as I wait for the download of Larsson’s  final book, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” coming to the U.S. this week.


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  1. collapse expand

    Susan I couldn’t agree more! Hollywood would really ruin this if they cast perfect-looking big names. Of course, this is such a terrific movie, whatever they do will never compare to the original. Can you think of anything worse than Tom Cruise in the lead?

  2. collapse expand

    I was just reading in the NYT Sunday mag that the translations of the books were “prettified” and Larsson would have hated them, and the English translator withdrew his real name and used a pseudonym (I think if you’re going to announce the fact that you have a pseudonym you shouldn’t have bothered). Anyway I do wish I could read these in the original Swedish.

    • collapse expand

      I read that too–hard to know what to think. Everybody complains that the books are badly written. The writing didn’t bother me–I was carried away by the plots! But yes, it would be great to be able to read the originals…I’m sure a lot got lost in translation, including the original title, “Men Who Hate Women,” which was probably a good thing to lose, no matter how true to the text.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    The subtitles for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” were very easy to read. It’s too bad that dubbing couldn’t be done – the original movie was so great. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Lisbeth and Mikael. Let’s face it, no one who can’t read Swedish now ever will. Viggo Mortensen as Mikael? How about Anne Hathaway? I could see her dark. Tom Medlicott

  4. collapse expand

    I was wild about the books, and I totally agree that the movie adaptation was amazing. My first thought after seeing the movie was that as good as it was, it still wasn’t as good as the book. The second thing I thought was that Hollywood was going to ruin it.

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