The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


If you’re a follower of my blog (which evidently you are) you’ve noticed my header image is from one of the best moments in David Fincher’s American adaptation/remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I chose this image because it is one of my favorite, powerful moments in cinema, it is one of my favorite films, and because I kind of look like Rooney Mara. So my love and admiration for this film is obvious right from the start. So today’s post is going to be a little different. I don’t need to review the film and tell you it’s good, that’s already obvious. I want to examine the film in terms of its place within cinema as both an adaptation of a novel and a remake of a foreign film.
I recently came across Smartling, a translation software company, and since I’m obsessed with movies, I immediately started thinking about movies and their relationship with language, particularly in foreign remakes. David Fincher had a very difficult task when it came to remaking The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. First, he had to adapt the Swedish novel written by Stieg Larsson. This necessitated the challenge of translating the novel into an American screenplay, preserving the themes and Swedish setting of the story, all while making it more appealing and understandable to Western audiences. But then Fincher also had the challenge of remaking a film that had already been very recently made in Sweden. The three Swedish Millenium films were all released in 2009, just two years before Fincher’s. So Fincher had to remain faithful to the novel, make it more cinematic, and differentiate his film from the already successful (even to American audiences) Swedish version.

Rooney Mara as Lizbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist.
Rooney Mara as Lizbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist.

Language is an extremely important tool human beings have for communicating. In today’s internet driven culture different cultures can now communicate with one another seamlessly and more easily than ever before. It is integral to get the best, most accurate translation in order to not misconstrue what someone is saying. The makers of the English Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would have had to rely heavily on translators of the Swedish novel. One key difference of the English and Swedish versions of the novel and films is in its title. In Sweden, Larrson’s Millennium trilogy is known as Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women). This title coveys a strong feminist message and perceives society (particularly Sweden’s) as misogynistic. English publishers decided to discard this title and instead went with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This title is much blander, free of any social commentary and in no way attempts to convey the message of the novel. This was a conscious choice made by translators and the publishers. It is a good example of how translation can have such a huge impact on a work of art.

The biggest and most obvious choice Fincher and the American producers made when remaking TGWTDT film was to have the characters speak in English. This is essential to adapting a foreign film for American audiences. There are three key actors to Fincher’s film and the relationship each of them has with language is noteworthy. First, there is Rooney Mara, an American actress, playing the heroine Lisbeth Salander. Rooney is a native American speaker, but in the film she speaks English with a Swedish accent. This helps to reaffirm her character’s nationality and the setting of the film while making sure English audiences can easily understand her. Then we have Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist. Daniel is an English actor (helloooo James Bond) speaking in his natural, English voice. He chooses to not affect any kind of accent. Finally we have Stellan Skarsgård, a very famous Swedish actor. Here he speaks English (his second language) with a Swedish accent (his native language). An interesting little soup isn’t it? Why did Fincher allow his actors to make these choices? In order to imbue the film with a hybridity. It successfully straddles both the American and Swedish worlds. It isn’t realistic, but it is effective in communicating the story to English audiences while staying true to the story’s setting.

The setting of the film and its place in Swedish history is integral to its plot. This isn’t a story that you can adapt to an American setting, it would lose much of its commentary, particularly that on present day Nazism. So Fincher keeps the film in Sweden and mixes the two languages together. None of the actors speak any Swedish in the film (apart from the odd Herr Blomkvist), they only speak in English. But the texts that they read are both English and Swedish, enhancing the hybridity of the film. Television news crawls are in English as are store signs and Millennium magazine. But everything Salander reads on her computer is in English, as are most of the newspaper clippings she reads, and the bible. It’s a great way of submerging the viewer in Sweden while still making sure that they understand the integral elements of the story. The things that Lizbeth reads are extremely important to her investigation, thus they are in English while cans of cat food are not so important. This hybridity is one of my favorite elements of the film.

Another example of hybridity is evident in the opening sequence of the American film. This opening is stunning both visually and musically, I remember seeing it in theaters and thinking that it was nearly orgasmic. It is just such a rush, especially on the big screen. The images conveyed are symbols that can be understood no matter what language you speak. But with his choice of music Fincher again emphasizes his films hybridity. “Immigrant Song” is an infamous song, originally done by Led Zeppelin. It is a song about Swedish immigration sung by an English band from their perspective. Fincher twists the song for his opening sequence by making it a cover sung by Karen O, a South Korean/American artist. So Fincher is appropriating the song by giving it a female voice/perspective as well as imitating his own remake with the song cover. It’s a powerful sequence that mirrors the entire film perfectly both visually and musically.

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig star in Columbia Pictures' "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO."
As you can see when you examine David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a little more closely, language, translation, and intention are extremely important to how a remake of a foreign film will be perceived by American audiences. Fincher may tweak the story here and there, but it only serves to strengthen the thematic messages of the novel. He also combats the language challenge by employing a hybridity of language, creating a time and place that is both Swedish and English. This is strengthened by the choices his actors make with their Swedish accents or lack thereof as well as his use of the “Immigrant Song.” The audience and the film itself are both aware of the film’s status as both a translation and a remake. The ways Fincher faces this challenge make this film an incredible cinematic work.
Big shout out to the following video which helped inspire this post:

Trailer Review: Pan


Now this is a trailer that I really like. Which is kind of funny because I am not a Peter Pan fan at all (except for Finding Neverland). This trailer looks fun and magical. And it might actually add something fresh to the classic story. I think a Peter Pan prequel has a lot of potential to be interesting.
I love that one of my favorite directors, Joe Wright, is directing. He makes surprising and innovative choices. Joe Wright is not afraid to take risks and I hope this movie reflects that. Hugh Jackman looks great as Blackbeard. He’s pretty creepy looking and it looks like he had a lot of fun. And I also love that Rooney Mara is playing Tiger Lily. The casting choice pissed off a lot of people (since she’s not Native), and I can understand why, but she is one of the best actresses out there. She can pull it off. I don’t think I’ve seen Garrett Hedlund in anything before, but he looks promising as Hook. And the boy playing Peter, Levi Miller, seems perfect for the role. Also, the music in this trailer is really great and accentuates the story.
I think what appeals to me the most about this movie is that it is a little dark. Disney versions of fairytales tend to ignore this aspect of their stories. But Warner Brothers is producing Pan, not Disney. So they are more willing to go dark and take risks Disney would not. I will definitely be in line to see Pan when it arrives in theaters July 17, 2015. Will you?

Her (2013)


This movie I simply did not like. No matter how hard I tried I could not get into it. Her is a film about a lonely man, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with the operating system on his phone (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This premise just turns me off. I was intrigued enough to watch it, but the whole time I was like “How can he love his computer?” and also “How can his computer laugh, and fake an orgasm, and basically have a personality?” Logically I know that technology is developing fast and operating systems probably will be this complicated and intelligent one day in the future. But I was still just like, WTF?

This picture is basically the majority of the film. Joaquin's face as he talks to his phone. Not on it, to it. Boring.
This picture is basically the majority of the film. Joaquin’s face as he talks to his phone. Not on it, to it. Boring.

There are some good aspects to Her, which is directed by Spike Jonze. First of all, Joaquin Phoenix is excellent and he almost made me believe in the absurdity of everything. As good as he is though I found all the close ups of him that dragged on forever uncomfortable and I had to keep looking away from the screen. It’s not Joaquin’s fault, of course, he’s fine to look at. It was just soooo boring. Could they seriously have not staged those scenes in any other way? My eye kept wandering. The eye needs to be enticed and I’m sorry, but Joaquin’s wacky mustache does not do it for me (seriously, what is with all the goofy mustaches in this movie? And the high waisted pants?)

The set design and use of color is one of the only things that worked for me in Her.
The set design and use of color is one of the only things that worked for me in Her.

The humor in this film was weird, really weird, and really turned me off. The whole dead cat thing? That is fucked up and hardly funny. This film just feels like a limp fish, there’s pretty much nothing happening and hardly any humor. I tried to like this film, but I found it boring. And the ending is the worst, most boring part of it all! Like seriously, that’s it?! I thought that at least Joaquin and Amy Adams were going to jump off the roof or something. Not just sit there in dull, boring silence. This movie is pretentious in the worst way possible. People are becoming too attached to technology and don’t want to put any effort into a relationship. That is what I got from the film and I don’t find that very interesting or original.

Rooney Mara brings some much needed energy and emotion to an otherwise dull film (pictured here with Joaquin Phoenix).
Rooney Mara brings some much needed energy and emotion to an otherwise dull film (pictured here with Joaquin Phoenix).

I really liked the set design of the movie. I found all the bright colors quite refreshing and interesting since there are so many dark films these days. The score was also good and added to the movie. And I absolutely loved both Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt. Chris is just hilarious and one of my new favorite people. He makes me smile. The scenes with Rooney and Joaquin were the only scene in which I felt a connection to what was happening. They were so bitter sweet. I really felt that I could understand Theodore’s pain, I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship could relate to him. Rooney is so charismatic and injects some vibrancy into an otherwise dead on arrival film.
Her just doesn’t do it for me. I tried to like it. It has a few good things going on. But overall I feel that it lacks life. It’s hard to make a movie about a guy talking to his OS exciting. And the ending is so weak, just thinking about it pisses me off. 6/10