The books of the notorious Millenium Trilogy – that would be “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl who Played with Fire” and “The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” – may no longer be the zeitgeist-bating literary sensations that they were once considered. Prospects for a proper sequel to David Fincher’s 2011 American adaptation of the first book, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” are looking pretty slim and it doesn’t seem likely to happen.
And although Fincher has since gone on to adapt another book-of-the-year with last year’s prickly “Gone Girl,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – both the book and the films it spawned – have a nasty, sick-puppy allure that have won author Stieg Larsson a devoted cult of fans. The American and Swedish films both draw from the same deep and painful well of internal punishment and pummelling, wicked sadism: the very same sordid business that occasionally makes Larsson’s literary output so tough to get through. The respective cinematic adaptations of ‘Dragon Tattoo,’ however, couldn’t be more different.
In a new installment of Side by Side, we are invited to look at the telling differences in each ‘Dragon Tattoo’ adaptation, particularly in regards to one of the book’s most memorable and stomach-churning sequences. I speak, of course, of the revenge-rape scenario perpetrated by tormented heroine Lisabeth Salander against her vile and predatory social worker Nils. It’s a spectacularly messed-up scene that turns a victim into a snarling, righteously angry warrior, and although the point of the scene remains pretty clear in both versions, the directors of each ‘Dragon Tattoo’ film handle the scene in telling, different ways.
Director Niels Arden Oplev’s take on the original text is a bit more clinical and removed than Fincher’s more funeral, stylized view of things. It’s a point of contrast that carries over into the scene discussed above: there are several big differences, including just how long each director chooses to hold on Nils’ agonized face as he is put through the most humiliating, emasculating of treatments, the exact number of cuts in each scene, and, of course, the crucial difference between the use of a metal versus a plastic dildo in what is perhaps one of the narrative’s more appalling and sickly appropriate moments.
Oplev stages his version of the scene in a more comparatively subdued light, while the 2011 version features Fincher’s sickly-yellow lighting and also Rooney Mara made up to resemble a demented raccoon. ‘Dragon Tattoo’ die-hards will no doubt get a kick out of the comparison, which is insightful, and a revealing look at how the same source material can yield different but equally powerful results. Take a look at the differences in each scene below. [Fandor]