Swedish 'Dragon Tattoo' Director Speaks Up

Okay, this is tricky: A website does a story and less than an hour later it's all over the web. In this particular case it's wordandfilm.com and their interview with Niels Arden Oplev, the director of the Swedish 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'. If you go through the headlines linking to this story (e.g. on IMBD.com) you read "Original Dragon Tattoo Director Rips Hollywood Remake" and likewise. Well, always a wise decision to read the original source...

First off, to my understanding Niels Arden Oplev doesn't so much "rip the Hollywood remake". Wouldn't make much sense, either, months before that "remake" is even finished, and could only be considered non-professional. Secondly, what Oplev actually says is mostly in defense of his leading actress Noomi Rapace, "the only thing that's annoying me is the Sony PR machine is trying to make their Lisbeth Salander the lead Lisbeth Salander. That’s highly unfair because Noomi has captured this part and it should always be all her. That’s her legacy in a way I can’t see anyone competing with. I hope she gets nominated for an Oscar."

What Oplev is arguing against is the more fundamental question, why make American remakes of everything and not go and see the original. While I understand that reasoning, I want to accompany it with the comment that David Fincher's version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" has publicly and several times been referred to as a new adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel – not a remake of the Swedish movie.

I have seen the Swedish films and thought they were very well made. Especially Noomi Rapace: She truly gives the performance of a lifetime. Nonetheless I find this an exciting situation: having two films made from the same source material, done with the powers and potentials of two very different market places. Of course I am not nonpartisan on this issue, since I am confident that if there is a director out there, who can deliver a worthy and stunning American version of the novel, it is David Fincher. Due to that I follow the general rhetoric that hey, if the books sell by the millions world-wide, an American adaptation of these books will probably be more easily able to do justice to the demand than a Swedish film -- and that is not an artistic judgement of either one of the adaptations but a mere fact of the current Hollywood dominated international distribution structure. So at the end of the day, once you learn they make two films from the same book, no matter who you are, you could be Alfred Hitchcock, I bet you will be nervous if "the other guy" is of the caliber of David Fincher.

What do you think?
Here's the original story, on wordandfilm.com:



  1. Oplev is right. Love Fincher though I do, I'm fundamentally against the existence of a second adaptation. It's lazy, unnecessary and does great damage to the reputation of the American film industry internationally.

    With such a wealth of great projects on his desk, I wish Fincher had steered clear of this one. I know it's an easy boxoffice win and might give him more studio cred - but it's just sad that a guy with so much ability has chosen to adapt a book that has literally JUST BEEN ADAPTED (and extremely well at that). What next? Fincher making an adaptation of 'No Country for Old Men'? It boggles the mind...

  2. It's a difficult call to make. I saw the swedish films, all three of them, and they were perfect, their Lisbeth was super and believable, the detective guy was the real thing, the camera style was dark and noir, so it's all there.

    David Fincher is my number one director alive and I am sure he can get a good movie from the novels. But I agree with you, David Camp, I just don't understand why Fincher would bother to make another adaptation.

    The real question is not whether it's a remake or a new adaptation, it's why a second movie about the same story?

    As of yet I am not sure what to make of this.

  3. @Zena "The real question is not whether it's a remake or a new adaptation, it's why a second movie about the same story?"

    Because it's a very good story... and Fincher can make it even better ;)

    I will use an example: "Infernal Affairs" and "The Departed". Pretty much it's the same story, yet those are very different movies. "The Departed" has Scorsese written all over it. It's his movie. Same will happen to "Dragon Tatoo", one may think the Swedish movie is already very "fincheresque" but I say no one could copy his style. Fincher will make "Dragon Tatoo" his movie and I'm pretty sure it will be very different from the Swedish version. Both in style and substance.

    No worries on my part.

  4. "The real question is not whether it's a remake or a new adaptation, it's why a second movie about the same story?"


  5. Stephen King's "It" was an okay TV mini-series back in the 90s and is now being remade as a theatrical release. Why bother, the mini-series was good enough, right? Wrong. Another way of arguing this would be to say, there are already three novels, why make them into movies. Because some people don't feel like reading books, they like films better, and others don't watch foreign language films, they like watching english language films better, without subtitles or dubbing. The retelling of stories is as old as mankind and there's nothing wrong with taking a good story and interpreting it in however many ways you want. Every writer, every director, every filmmaker will see different themes, gems, moments, emotions in the novel and therefore will deliver a different mood and tone and story as the other. What's wrong with that being the Niels whatshisname interpretation and the other being the Fincher interpretation? Nothing. Get over it.

  6. The retelling of stories is as old as mankind. The re-adapting of novels, almost immediately, is bizarre and ridiculous. Were the Swedish GWTDT ten or twenty years old, I may not object, but when it's only *just* been released, to great worldwide acclaim, it seems simply ludicrous to be making a second adaptation.

    By that logic, would you object to Fincher announcing he's directing an adaptation of '127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place'?

  7. I certainly would not object. Any two directors would create utterly different interpretations of the same source material, say a novel, a real life event, and so on. That's what makes or breaks a great director is that they don't just paint a story by the numbers but bring a unique vision. A Fincher "127 Hours" would look and feel vastly different from how a Danny Boyle or a Spike Jonze or say a Todd Phillips would bring it to the screen. Would I think it's an odd decision? Sure, from a studio standpoint that's crazy. As a potential audience for both flicks? Why should I give a fuck. It's not so much about the plot as it is about the treatment. To stay with your example, I would probably even watch both films if Fincher and Boyle were working from the exact same script. Also, to address one of the other points you made, Fincher certainly doesn't do his version of the film because he didn't like the original. My understanding is that a Swedish film can only reach a very distinct (in other words "small") audience world wide, whereas a Hollywood movie has the financial and structural opportunity to market to a mass audience. How many people will watch GWTDT in the US? I am guessing it was playing on 100 screens nationwide, and if it's doing fantastically well, it will have made a couple million dollars. Fincher's GWTDT can probably make that B.O. on its opening day. So what do you want? A good Swedish film few people are watching. Or a good or better American film that millions will actually go see? See, I know how this comes across, but I actually don't care about box office results much. What I am trying to say is, if Fincher can come up with another great film based on a great novel, why would anyone mind?

  8. You'll both end up watching Fincher's movie, so why bother arguing?

  9. I am also a Finchermaniac. I love every film he makes. The uniquely way of capturing the spirit, that remains invisible inside any story. The way he manages to tell stories with his camera, astonishing imagery, subliminal gestures which encompasses a whole new reality, and so on (the purpose is not to write a panegyric about Fincher). However, I am frankly against these remakes, and utterly in opposition to this new Hollywood way of making movies when the original one is almost unanimously considered as a perfect film (in all of its aspects), regardless of being spoken in Swedish, Thai, Japanese, Portuguese, or Russian. The creative condition of a masterpiece should be preserved, not copied. It looks like those flea markets where you can find fake (remade) Ralph Lauren’s shirts, Prada’s shoes, Rolex’s watches and/or Louis Vuitton’s luggage.
    If it was a remake of an old movie, I think that is far more tolerable. There are new ideas, techniques, and technology that could bring the film to a new echelon, and sometimes it might take you back to the old forgotten movie which was an exceptional piece of art. But the Swedish trilogy is not genuinely the case. The trilogy premiered 2 years ago. Like David Camp said on the first comment, “It’s lazy, unnecessary and does great damage to the reputation of the American film industry internationally.” And that’s all we comment here in non-English speaking Europe (admirers of American film industry), stronger and more vehement when the marvelous, poignant and breathtaking 2008 Tomas Alfredson’s Låt den rätte komma in was replaced with (that’s what it sounds) Matt Reeves’ Let Me In. In my point of view is a simple waste of resources, it’s just throwing money out the window, and, in this case (Fincher’s remake of Larsson’s novel), is far more serious: the most talented movie director alive sides with this inexcusable way of resource dissipation, and possibly can damage his own image as a meticulous and discerning movie director.
    A year ago, when I first heard the rumor, I treated like a rumor of this caliber should be treated: with no concern at all. But then the rumor has been repeated several times, and I have started becoming very worried about that. Now, it is too late. Fincher is making it. There’s no way back. And can destroy a living myth…

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