booksmoviesbooksmovies

Yesterday we finally saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at Sundance.  In short, it was well done and faithful to the book.  They edited a lot from the book, but everything they took out made a lot of sense to me.  They added a couple of things, but the things they added made me think, “Wait, was that in the book?” as opposed to, “There’s no way that would ever have happened!”  So, again, it was a very faithful, respectful adaptation.

It’s interesting when really popular books are made into movies.  It can’t be easy.  I remember an interview with Emma Thompson in which she was talking about the difficulty of adapting Sense and Sensibility.  She said that while she was on a plane, the passenger next to her was going on and on about her favorite scene from the book and couldn’t wait to see what Thompson had done with it on the screen.  Well, it turned out, Thompson had cut that part altogether.  Oops.

Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility is a good place for me to start with my books-to-movies pontification.  I have always wanted to slap the criminally wanna-be elites when they moan on about how movies are never, ever as good as whatever book that spawned them.  I think this is a horrifically ignorant stance and just, well, nonsensical.  Why would a book be inherently better than another art form?  Because reading is somehow just ‘better’ than film?  Why?  I don’t buy it.  What I do buy, though, is that when a director and screenwriter are making a movie out of a beloved book, they are treading on dangerous ground.  But it can be exciting ground.

Sense and Sensibility is a much better movie, in most ways, than it is as a book.  Thompson’s S&S is made as if Austen had written her story at the end of the career, as opposed to the beginning.  It is more sophisticated, cleaner and more polished than Austen’s first novel.  I truly think that Austen would not only approve, but applaud.

A River Runs Through It is a great book.  It’s a compelling, and short, autobiography of Norman Maclean and his life in western Montana.  The thing is, though, as beautiful as the words in the book are, and as artfully as his sentences are constructed, a major character in the book — if not the major character — is Montana.  Seeing the story on the screen brought everything into sharp focus.  It became clear that the book was not only the unfolding story of the tragic figure of Maclean’s brother, but a love poem to Montana.  And Redford captured this brilliantly.  It is magic to behold.

Now, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a good book to be sure.  But it is not A River Runs Through It and it is surely not my beloved Jane.  But I think some of the points are the same.  It is a wildly popular modern book that has been eagerly anticipated in film-form.  As I said, the story that we saw yesterday was very faithful to Larsson’s story.  For the most part, I really liked the film. 

Lisbeth Salander is beautifully played by Noomi Rapace.  I think people were probably most worried about the portrayal of Salander since she is by far the most compelling feature in a thoroughly compelling book.  But Rapace really nailed her.  Though she looked a little like Marilyn Manson at times, which scared me, I think that was probably the point.  Blomkvist was also perfectly cast in Michael Nykvist — he looked almost exactly as I thought he should look.  Aaron thought he looked like Mayor Dave.  I can see that, but more if Mayor Dave lived a much harder life. 

For me, Sweden was a really big part of the book and I wanted more Sweden in the movie – more shots of Salander walking down the streets of Stockhom.  Aaron pointed out that maybe for Swedes, Sweden didn’t seem to play as big of a role in the novel so that the film didn’t need to reflect it.  It’s a good point.  I don’t know.  I know that I did want, though, an ariel shot of the Vanger island.  I wanted a map of it in the book, which I didn’t get, so I was really hoping for a better sense of it in the film, which also didn’t happen.  That said, I loved the buildings they chose to represent this space.  They were truly brought to life and I felt like I was seeing into a world I’d been able only to imagine before.  Mainly because that’s what I was doing, really. 

What really struck me about the film, though, is the violence.  I hadn’t really prepared myself for that.  Obviously I was aware that the book was violent, but just as I had been aware that A River Runs Through It is about Montana, I wasn’t ready for what that would mean when I would see it brought to life.  I could not watch — and I mean I literally did not see a single part of — the scene in which Salander’s guardian assaults her.  I could barely stand the sound of hearing it.  I closed my eyes, put my head in my shirt, put my hands over that and clenched down on a rolled-up napkin.  It hurt.  It was nauseating.

Adapting a film from an iconic book can be a great thing.  It can be great to see all of those characters as actual people.  And it can be awesome to see the scenes unfold before your eyes.  And it can be terrifying, too.

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5 Responses to “booksmoviesbooksmovies”


  1. 1 gwendolyngarden June 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I can’t possibly imagine the assault scene, it was terrifying to read. You are so right that it is fun to think about how the movies will be adapted from the books, but sometimes it is disappointing too- the latest HP movie: I can’t imagine watching if you hadn’t read the book , it was senseless.

    On another note- love the changeup in your blog backdrop!

  2. 2 gracieandkate June 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I changed the format again. I can’t stop. Never satisfied!

  3. 3 gwendolyngarden June 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I like the font a lot

  4. 4 gracieandkate June 22, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I just want all of these features that only some of the formats support. Really need custom header, of course, but then that limits your choices. Like, I liked the “dark wood” one, but it has no custom header ability. WordPress is a bit like life: you just can’t have it all.

  5. 5 Mary June 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I just love your blog. Thank you.


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