Missing in Translation: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

While this book to movie adaptation was better than the Memoirs of a Geisha book to movie translation, there were still things left out. I think this book to movie translation did a lot to make sure the same kind of story was given, even if it had to change or cut some things along the way. At first, I was nervous they would leave a ton of important information out, because this book was also very detailed, but more of the detail was involved in explaining the financial world that the case against one of the main characters takes place, and also explaining a lot of extraneous information that didn’t really come into play besides slowly eliminating people in a family of 20+ potential suspects.

One of the major entire plot lines that was left out was Lisbeth, who is the main character, is visiting her mother. Knowing how writers, especially in the mystery genre, don’t typically write something unless it will come up at some point, it makes me wonder if this will hurt the following movies in not having that relationship established earlier, and having to make up for the explanation if the mother comes back around. However, if this movie was a standalone, I would say that it wasn’t necessary to begin with. She only visits her a handful of times and each time it is only a paragraph or a sentence.

One of the main plot lines (spoiler) is the fact that Harriet, the main character in the murder mystery surrounding the plot of the movie, alive and had run away, is also slightly altered. In the book, we have to go through the cousin Anita and a little bit of traveling before we meet Harriet again. But in the movie, we meet her in when Mikael begins all of his research, we just don’t know it yet because the audience thinks we are meeting Anita. It did not drastically change the storyline of Harriet escaping, she still got away, and Anita married someone in the movies, whereas the book has Harriet marrying someone and using her married name. In this case she just uses Anita’s entire identity, which worked well for the same kind of plot twist the book has. What mattered, subtle things Martin did like killing the cat, the pictures and him lying about where he was that day, and shooting at Mikael, were plot points that mattered and ultimately brought a bunch of seemingly random facts in line to solve the mystery.

When it comes to Lisbeth, there were a couple things that were different, that I think needed to be. First off, her original caretaker didn’t die, which became important as the story progressed because we could never really see her inner thoughts like we did in the books when the narrator talked about her. This leads to Lisbeth visiting her old caretaker and speaking to him about what’s going on with her. For example, when she is playing chess and brings up that she considers Mikael a really good friend that even he would approve of. This adds to Lisbeth’s emotions that come out at the very end. The gift that Lisbeth got for Mikael at the end was also different, which I think contributed to a specific purpose. In the book she just gets him a sign, that he might find comical, although it’s not something we really understand as a sentimental gift. The leather jacket she gets him in the movie is something that was clearly thought out as she had a picture of him wearing a similar one, showing she thought about what he would actually like. This makes it so much more apparent that she cares, when as a character she has a very reserved and standoffish demeanor. Since she isn’t going to just say how she feels, this gift was a way to show the audience where her emotions are, right before she sees Mikael and Erika going home together. This leaves a bigger impression that if she had just shown up with a gift, that we didn’t really know if she put any thought into.

Overall, it was a good representation of the book, and I definitely think it did better than Memoirs of a Geisha. The major issues were still shown, but maybe in different ways, and it did not change the overall feel and mood of the mystery and thriller that it was. This movie found ways around what other book to movie translations struggle to accomplish: changing the storyline to match the form, without losing the fundamental details that make the story what it is.


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