The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The Curious Accents of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

with 37 comments

I’ve titled this post “The Curious Accents of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“. This title is somewhat misleading. It implies that I might have an explanation for them. I know that they’ve puzzled some of the English speaking viewers, and perhaps you had hoped that a Swede could make sense of it.

But I’m afraid I can’t.

I have no idea why Rooney Mara sounds as if she’s from Russia or Finland. I don’t know why some actors pronounce the Swedish name in perfect Swedish, suddenly, without an explanation breaking off the otherwise English sentence they’ve just uttered. And I don’t know why other actors, such as Daniel Craig, speak perfect English with no accent at all.

I tried to find some kind of pattern. Was Fincher trying to tell us something about the characters? Perhaps he considered Mikael Blomkvist smart and educated, a language craftsman whose personality would be best reflected by a perfect pronunciation? It sounded far-fetched and eventually I decided to shrug it off. I figured it was just a part of giving a bit of local flavor to the movie and they did it pretty carelessly, not going into deep investigations about what a typical Swedish-American accent really sounds like. Perhaps it worked as a Scandinavian enhancer for some people. For me it didn’t. All it did was distracting me.

Title sequence
And while we’re at distractions, let’s talk about the very beginning of the movie, the Bondesque title sequence with the fancy graphics and the mesmerizing soundtrack. It was pretty good  – as long as you regarded it as a stand-alone music video. But as soon as it was over and the film abruptly started with one of the bleak shots from the winterish Swedish reality, it felt just weird and disconnected. That intro clearly belonged to a different movie, as if someone had made a mix-up in the editing room. Considering the director’s reputation for being a perfectionist, this highly unlikely of course. But to me it was a strange choice.

I think you see where I’m getting with this review. Yes, I have mixed feelings towards this movie. Since I’ve started with some grumblings, I think I’ll continue on this track, and then I’ll write a little bit about the good stuff and then I’ll wrap it up at some point. Does that sound like a fair deal? OK.

The panty observation
My next issue to be discussed is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. I know there are quite a few people who prefer her to Noomi Rapace in the Swedish original movie, but I’m not one of those. While I don’t have anything against her acting performance – it’s nothing short of great – I would have preferred to see a slightly older version of Lisbeth, especially in the bed scenes. She’s so young that she’ looks almost as the same age as Blomvist’s daughter. It’s not believable to me that they would end up having sex. The chemistry isn’t really there. She looks far more girlish and less powerful than Rapace did. And why on Earth would she ask Blomkvist for permission to attack someone? I would imagine that Salander could decide that very well for herself. Fiffi, a Swedish blogger colleague, also made an interesting observation about her underwear:

“When Lisbeth gets picked up by a lesbian girl in a bar and gets a hot night and the girls wake up in bed in the morning,  what are they wearing? In reality, I am one hundred percent sure that the answer would be nothing (which I believe is how it played out in the Swedish film), but in this film both of the girls have black cotton hipsters. Likely? Nah, but it’s clear that lesbians have lucid briefs worn in all situations, it is not so? When the late Lisbeth “becomes more hetero” and shows interest in Michael, she suddenly changes to white lace lingerie. Then the nipples will be pushed out by the creamy white lace bra (close up) and the lesbian label disappeared all of a sudden and Salander becomes kind of more girlish, more feminine, a little more okay.”

I hear you Fiffi.

The good stuff

Now over to some good stuff. Because of course there is. For the annoyances there were and for how little I actually care for this franchise (would you believe me that I haven’t even read the books?) I was pretty well entertained as long as the movie lasted and apart from the accent issue it was polished in a way that Swedish movies never are with their vastly smaller budgets.

The attention to details was also amazing. This was a Sweden that I recognized and could connect to, nothing false, nothing too glossy. The view of the north going train reminded me of a song, “Vintersaga”, which in a nutshell captures what it means to live in Scandinavia in wintertime when the darkness falls and the melancholy enters.  In a rough translation:

“The Lappland train is roaring like a savage animal through the night/The farms are turning out their lights […] That’s when the big melancholy is rolling in/and from the sea there’s a chilly grey wind”

… But was it necessary?
Don’t read me wrong. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not a bad movie. After watching Seven a little while ago, I’m a big admirer of David Fincher’s.

But this is also why I’m questioning the very existence of this film. Why, oh, why is he wasting time on remaking something that was made so recently and did fairly well in the first version? It isn’t as if he brings a revolutionary new take on the story, is it?

You don’t need to tell me the answer; I suppose it’s money. We’ve all got to make a living one way or another. And yet I find it a waste. Waste of talent, waste of skills. Life is only so long and he could be doing new movies on par with Seven, movies that are groundbreaking, movies that will be copied. Ultimately I don’t think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is what Fincher will be remembered for.

God forbid that he’ll spend the next few years making follow-ups to this. He’s deserves better. And we do too! The world doesn’t need more Millenium. It’s time to move on. There are so many stories yet untold. And we want to hear them.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher US, 2011) My rating: 3,5/5

Written by Jessica

January 5, 2012 at 1:20 am

37 Responses

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  1. Agreed on most points. Rooney Mara sounds scottish if you ask me. Daniel Craig refused doing a Swedish accent since he feels he has met enough Swedes taking fluently without an accent.

    As a whole I think the film is a carbon copy of the Swedish one and that this was a couple of years to early. You might want to listen in on to the filmyarn epsiode I guested on where we discusses a lot of the things you bring up including why it was so rushed.

    Joel Burman

    January 5, 2012 at 2:02 am

    • Isn’t it a little strange to leave the decision to the actors if they should speak with or without accent? It has quite an impact and I think that as a director you probably should have a clear idea about this.

      I haven’t listened to the Filmyarn episode, as a matter of fact I’ve never listened to the podcast at all, but this gives me a good reason to check it out.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 10:20 am

  2. I imagine part of the accent mess is up to the actor’s abilities, as well as, apparently, their desires. Fincher probably wasn’t gonna let anyone go full Swedish chef on his film. The real question is, what accent is Skarsgård using?

    Anyway, I do think Fincher made the plot flow better than the Swedish version but I agree that Rapace just was a better fit for the character. I think Fincher’s is a perfectly capable film but so was the original. Did I really need to pay twice to see similar perfectly capable films? No, but I did. My loss I suppose.

    Bondo

    January 5, 2012 at 3:18 am

    • As I said above – it’s strange to leave this decision to the actors. I thought Fincher had a reputation for wanting perfection and control in every detail. The accent handling is just sloppy.

      I think Skarsgård speaks the way he always does in movies, right? He never quite got rid of the Swedish accent.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 10:24 am

  3. “Why on Earth would she ask Blomkvist for permission to attack someone?” You know, I laughed a little in the theater when she asked permission but you’re spot on with that observation. Spot. On.

    Nick

    January 5, 2012 at 4:34 am

    • In any other type of movie it would have worked. But not here. It was supposed to be I don’t know what the word is… a bit funny sort of. But for Lisbeth. No. It breaks a bit of her badassness and independence that was built up earlier.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 10:27 am

  4. Glad you don’t want Fincher to continue down this line… I pray he doesn’t!!!

    I have not seen the movie myself, but after The Social Network I would really like him to try and tackle something more ambitious then an adaptation of a book series that was JUST ADAPTED two years ago!

    Good review Jessica!

    Matt Stewart

    January 5, 2012 at 7:44 am

    • Thank you!

      I think I’ve seen some hints i media suggesting that he’s not all that interested in a continuation. So I’m hopefull.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 10:29 am

  5. I wholly agree with you on the Bond-style of the title sequence — really slick but had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie. The different accents were curious but didn’t create that much of a distraction for me. If one wants to be generous one could perhaps speculate that Fincher was conciously driving at a blurring of languagaes in the same way that he blurred periods in Seven, but I really doubt that is the case.

    I liked the movie mostly because it was far better than the Swedish version, but as you say, it’s still only a version and Fincher is a good enough director to aim for something more ambitious.

    Sofia

    January 5, 2012 at 8:17 am

    • I must admit though that the title sequence tickled me quite a bit. It put me in a mood for some proper, ridiculous, highpaced action. It’s been so long since I watched something like that and suddenly I had cravings for it. Odd.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

  6. hehe to an outsider and an ignorant Brit, her accent sounds OK. I mean I couldn’t tell my swedish from my finnish…. Sorry Jessica.

    I did enjoy this film, I preferred the original adaptation though. That has to be said.

    Scott Lawlor

    January 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    • Good for you, Scott. Noticing all the faults, especially how inconcequent they were in how names were pronounced was distracting and annoying. On the other hand no one talked like the Swedish chef. At least that’s something.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm

  7. Your last 3 paragraphs hit the nail right on the head. Please please please can Fincher move on? As far as I’m concerned I’ve already seen this film and the only reason to see this version is that I’m a Fincher-fanatic. But I’ll wait for the DVD.

    Pete

    January 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    • You’re not missing anything super essential that needs to be watched in a theatre. I think you safely can wait for the DVD.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review Jessica.

    CMrok93

    January 5, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    • Thanks! Yeah I really like Craig and prefer him to the original actor. But it doesn’t justify making this movie so soon after the other one. It doesn’t bring enough novelty to the table.

      Jessica

      January 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm

  9. Well, when we talk about Fincher doing it for the money I agree, but not in the ‘collect a paycheck’ way. He could be making a lot more if he went back to making TV commercials. He made a ton of cash doing that. I think he is making these movies because they are almost guaranteed blockbusters. When he goes to make something more artsy in the future the first thing a studio head is going to look at is the profit on his last few films. If he can show “Hey, I made a bunch of money with ‘Social Network’ and a boatload for Sony with ‘Dragon Tattoo'” then his next film is much more likely to get green-lit and get a bigger budget.

    Kierbuu

    January 6, 2012 at 3:04 am

    • I think you’re very right there. I just hope that he’s proved himself enough now to make something different than two sequels to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That would be such a waist.

      Jessica

      January 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

  10. “God forbid that he’ll spend the next few years making follow-ups to this.”

    As you probably know, David Fincher has not signed on to do the sequel, which might not even materialize, considering that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has failed rather miserably at the box office, not even raking in production costs. Although I do not share your admiration for the man – the chance that he´ll ever make a groundbreaking film I regard as practically non-existent and Seven is, to be frank, a re-hash of any number of films and especially TV-series-episodes preceding it – I agree, without having seen Tattoo (and neither will I do so), that he could probably spend his time on something more worthwhile. We’ll have to wait and see, but at the moment I’d venture a guess that there’s only a fifty-fifty chance they’ll ever make a sequel at all.

    If you cared for Seven, being a gruesome story with a surprise ending, did you ever see what I personally consider to be a far better film of that kind, also featuring Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects by Bryan Singer? Far more sophisticated, if you ask me, and the film Spacey made directly after Seven. And with the added touch that the gaspingly surprising ending … well, does it really … does it reveal the truth?

    You think about that one.

    All the best,
    Bellis

    Bellis

    January 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    • I didn’t know that it’s failed at the box office. That’s not good news exactly, even though again I’d rather see him doing something else.

      I haven’t seen The Usual Suspects I’m afraid. But I take that as a suggestion.

      Jessica

      January 6, 2012 at 9:14 pm

  11. […] The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – well crafted, but I hope Fincher will move over to make something else now […]

    • I fail to understand what you want to say here, but to clarify, in case it is a reply to my comment – I was commenting on this:

      “Life is only so long and he could be doing new movies on par with Seven, movies that are groundbreaking, movies that will be copied.”

      All the best,
      Bellis

      Moviehead

      January 6, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      • I didn’t try to respond to your comment there, it was an automatic pingback. 🙂

        Jessica

        January 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

  12. We only see the lace lingerie during the Irene Nesser sequence. Obviously, it’s a little silly to think that, in real life, lingerie would play a part in her disguise, but I find it a more convincing explanation of the filmmakers’ intent than the notion that they were trying to turn her “more girlish, more feminine” and therefore “a little more okay.”

    annie

    January 6, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    • That’s actually a very good point. I still think that Fiffi’s observations are valid though. I still think that she was far more girlish though than Rapace. And that’s a bit saddening. As Fiffi I’m not entirely sure this was in line with the intent of Stieg Larsson, considering his political standpoints.

      Jessica

      January 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

  13. Funny situation. An english movie, taking place in Sweden, watched by a Swede. While I normally don’t want a dubbed version when I know the original language (but strongly desire one if I don’t, subtitles destroy more of the work than dubbing; German is my native language, so I get them) in this case a dubbed version is superior. I don’t know why the director did this, but it is just annoying. Maybe it works on the U.S. “domestic” market where most people can’t recognize such accent but even then some characters use it, some don’t. I really don’t get the intention.

    Hauke

    January 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    • You’re the first one I’ve ever encountered who thinks dubbing is better than subtitles. I figure it’s much a habit. I’m used to subtitles and I’ve always felt sorry for people who live in countries where dubbing is the standard. I can’t really stand it. it’s cool to know though that there are differing opinions.

      At least we can agree on that the accents i this one were just weird.

      Jessica

      January 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      • If you would ask a bunch of German cinephiles, especially the ones publishing/blogging, the overwhelming majority would say they prefer subtitles.

        If you go to a major German cinema you will not find a single subtitled movie (and very few OVs, and if, only English ones). I think this is a very clear sign. In Sweden this situation just doesn’t exist, the market is not big enough for dubbing so there is no choice. In Germany there is a general basic knowledge of English, but with most of the people it is not good enough to follow a movie – certainly a vicious circle. With the broad audience reading/subtitling is beyond question. Absolutely no economic chance. Digitalisation may help as it could allow single screenings of specific more easily instead of the strict weekly schedule, but I doubt it.

        I actually prefer original versions – if I do know the language. The voices are an important part of the work, the original creators, directors, actors put their effort into it. Dubbing is, to a degree, an alteration, an interpretation. But so are subtitles. I really don’t get what is so fascinating about a soundtrack that is gibberish to me while reading dialogues instead of looking at the image. Especially if it is a non-indoeuropean language where I can read next to nothing out of the intonation and voice melody (think Chinese). And if I could, I probably would be at a different position in the text than the talker. For me this is a far more negative alteration than any decent dubbing could be. I admit there are dubs that are dramatically bad (“Nausicaa”, first version). It is nice to know English well enough to have the choice for a different dub.

        That said I am happy to live next to the Danish border so I can see English movies in the original version – with Danish subtitles ;-).
        And I admit there are movies where I don’t know how it could ever work in a dubbed version, like “Kukushka” (I recommended it to you, didn’t I?). But then the three languages are main plot device there. Sometimes regional dialects are transferred to local German or fantasy dialects which is strange at first but can work (e.g. “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis”). Another example coming to my mind is “Kutsidazu bidea, Ixabel”… hm, I even saw that one in the Spanish/Euskadian subtitled original here in the local (art-house) cinema. But that was within some special event week. Sometimes there even exists different German dubs for Germany, Switzerland and Austria (“Shrek”) or Swiss-German movies are dubbed, sometimes by the original actors (“Der Sandmann”/”Ein Sommersandtraum” – even different distribution titles). But then they subtitle Swiss-German talking people in German even in TV ;-).

        Hauke

        January 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

        • Well… I actually do think that I can get something out of the voices, even when it’s non-indoeuropean. And since the language is a part of the culture and setting, it would just feel weird hearing someone speaking Swedish who obviously is living in India. Very distracting as a matter of fact.

          But I think again – it’s a habit thing.

          Funny thing about the different German dubs. I can vividly imagine they do it for Swizz german. I’ve got a relative from those parts of Switzerland and as far as I understand it it has very little to do with regular German.

          Jessica

          January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm

          • Yes, spoken Swiss German is next to unintelligible for northern Germans (like myself). In northern Germany lower German was common and standard language for a long time (even influenced Swedish to a degree). When high German evolved as standard language the northern Germans nearly completely got rid of their own language (which suddenly was regarded as inferior) and fully adopted the new one while southern Germans (including Swiss and Austrians in this context) retained their high-German, but heavy dialect. That’s why northern German is more “pure”, up to clinical, than southern German. It is sad because language is part of the culture. I am living in a Land (~län, state) where legally five languages are accepted, but de facto there are two spoken where I live (high German and Rigsdansk, legally accepted are also Romani, lower German and Frisian – plus there are two major dialects of Danish in this area).

            Back to movies, I always wanted to manually cut “Inglourious Basterds” into a truthful version. I was really disappointed by the use of languages in this movie. It starts out nice*, like it would be honest and just use the languages that in fact would have been used by the characters (and the language difference even has a small plot driving moment). But in both the original version and the German “dubbed” version the basic premise of truthfulness is broken a few times – so the use of languages just degrades to a simple artistic stunt. That was annoying, there easily could have been a “true” language track. (* The “dubbed” German version was better in this case – Waltz in his native language, and in the English version the German officer asks the French dairy farmer if he speaks English – not a likely setting.)

            See… I do like languages. Even kind of a hobby, it’s not just laziness from my side. But I also can understand people who just want to be entertained by a movie. It is easier, less exhausting.

            What do you think of movies with an historical setting and dead languages? Would you prefer “Quo Vadis” in Latin? “Beowulf” in Old English? There were a few experiments in this direction, like “Apocalypto” or “Passion of the Christ”.where such an approach was choosen but I didn’t see either.

            Hauke

            January 13, 2012 at 1:38 am

            • The idea of watching Quo Vadis in Latin never crossed my mind to be honest. So I figure I’m not entirely consequent here. But on the other hand: Quo Vadis with people speaking English isn’t the same as dubbing. The lips sync with what’s said. I really hate bad lip syncing (which sometimes happen when they put on the sound afterwards, such as I pointed out in Susperia for instance, where I couldn’t stop thinking o fthe bad sync). If you think of Quo Vadis in English, it’s more equivalent to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English. Without adding any silly attempts to make latin accents of course.

              Jessica

              January 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

              • Yes, dubbing has to be done well. When using related languages it can work quite well, like English to German, even with English a little less verbose than German.

                The one annoying thing, not mentioned yet: Dubbing artists speaking for more than one foreign actor. And changing the dubbing speaker, especially in long running series. Hearing or even seeing the dubbing speaker in different context can be strange, too – advertisement sometimes uses this trick so they don’t have to hire a “real” star but still can utilize his image. The German voice of Bruce Willis is doing advertisements for electronics now…

                Hauke

                January 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm

  14. You really should read the books. They are much better in detail and look at the basics of human rights and swedish laws. The message, though reasonably delivered in the movies, seems more profound in the books. They really are amazing.

    Liz

    January 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

  15. […] Morning Thunder BuffaloDan the Man’s Movie ReviewsWide Screen WorldThe Velvet CaféThatFellowMovie Reviews by Tom […]

  16. […] of this comes from Jessica at The Velvet Cafe, mostly in her discussion of remakes and her review of the Hollywood version that came out last year. At some point in all those discussions I acquired […]

  17. […] Morning Thunder BuffaloDan the Man’s Movie ReviewsWide Screen WorldThe Velvet CaféThatFellowMovie Reviews by Tom […]


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