My First Subtitled Film…

This week I watched a film that wasn’t in English, and that’s significant because I tend to avoid such films like the plague. Not because I don’t think they’ll be good; I’m not so ignorant to believe if it isn’t from Hollywood, it isn’t worth viewing, but because I’m not really interested in reading subtitles for two hours. I do believe it negatively affects your enjoyment of the film, as it is harder to get that emotional connection through text than if you were hearing the actor in your mother tongue (especially given how some foreign languages can be difficult to perceive in the same way; German, for example, doesn’t always convey sadness, as it mostly sounds, well…aggressive). Would a film like The Expendables be as moving if, instead of listening to Stallone’s beautiful monologue at the finale*, you had to read a line of text at the bottom, because the very talented actor in question was speaking French? Exactly. I just don’t see the appeal to it.

But despite my reservations, I decided to give it a go. I’m willing to experience new things, providing the time is right, and as there was little else on the television, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to culture myself a little bit (if such a thing is possible).

So, what did I watch? A French romance film, perhaps Chocolat (was that subtitled? Let’s just assume it was because it’s the only example I can think of), or something else along those lines? Or maybe the epic German movie, Das Boot?

Um, not quite. I actually watched the Swedish film version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A bit of a cheat I know, as having read the book (twice) and watched the Hollywood version, I’m already well versed in the plot, but hey…it is a start, right? Just because it was the only film I could see in a different language and not have to rely fully on the subtitles to follow the story doesn’t mean it shouldn’t count. I’m cultured, people!

Anyway, the main reason I watched it was to see how the Swedes had interpreted the novel. I really liked the Hollywood version, but how would it compare to the original? Yes, it has subtitles, but the Swedes are bound to have a greater understanding of Larsson’s work, so it should be a better film regardless of language. I know it won’t be disappointing (a few people I know have seen them), but would I be able to enjoy it?

Well, yes. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m keen to see the other two films in the trilogy. Much like the U.S version, the film was intense from start to finish. It captured the essence of the book, and . I thought the cast were very good too, though the male lead was a little needy for my liking (but he was always going to struggle to win me over anyway; you can’t beat Daniel Craig because…come on, it’s Daniel Craig).

Now it’s been a while since I saw the Hollywood version of TGWTDT, but I reckon it followed the novels more closely than the Swedish adaptation. Surprising, right? We all know how Hollywood likes to play fast and loose with the source material, but with Larsson, they seemed to keep strict to the novel (not quite true; see EDIT below). In comparison, the Swedes made a number of changes; nothing overly dramatic (we’re not talking Under The Dome levels of tweaking), but there were several aspects that differed from the novel. I won’t go through them all, but there were several that stood out in particular:

  1. The relationship between Lisbeth Salander and Blomkvist wasn’t as compelling.
  2. One of the characters was alive.
  3. The police were involved in the main plot.
  4. They made Salander a darker character.
  5. The ending was different.

Sounds a lot, but I don’t think the story drastically changed however, and it was still a really good film. I did think the variations were strange (2, 3, 4), but perhaps the Swedes were more comfortable to change things, and maybe it’ll make more sense in the grand scheme of things. I’ll have to watch the second and third films and find out.


I guess I’m more willing to watch subtitled films now, but I’d still prefer to stick to English-speaking films. As a result, I think I’m still going to say the Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was better.

BUT I did like the Swedish version (sorry for saying version so often), and I would recommend it if you were a fan of the novels, especially as they’re taking ages to make the English-speaking sequels (I checked the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and the trilogy hasn’t been canned, but it might be next year before we will hear anything more). It’s a good film, and I’m glad I watched it. 7.5/10 (assuming I gave the English one an 8).



EDIT: Turns out I found several issues in the Hollywood version too, regarding the plot/deviations from the novel; I just conveniently forgot them when I was writing my spiel about how the Swedish one made more changes. Whoops.

In my defence, I wasn’t wrong when I said I thought it was very good. It just wasn’t quite as wonderful as I’m portraying it now…but hey, I can’t remember everything I’ve posted on this blog!



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