Män som hatar kvinnorComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022

November 2022

February 2023

March 2023

April 2023

May 2023

July 2023

September 2023

November 2023

January 2024

February 2024

June 2024


Friday, May 18, 2012

We watched MAN SOM HATAR KVINNOR, the Swedish original film of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. (The Swedish title translates as "Men who hate women," which is pretty accurate, if not as racy.)

This is going to be one of those posts where I appear to bitch about someone else's enormously commercially successful plot, so HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD, of course.

Dramatically, it is quite an odd picture. The main character is a mild-mannered, somewhat schlumpy journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who's just been suckered by an industrialist he was trying to expose. He's hired to get to the bottom of a 40 year old murder involving a rich and rather nasty family.

And so he investigates, and gets Not Very Far. Fortunately, though, he has a fairy godmother, in the form of a 24-year-old bisexual punk hacker with problems of her own. Lisbeth has hacked into his computer and is monitoring his investigation, for reasons that don't seem clear in the movie.

She emails him the solution to the not very difficult code that has stumped him for months. (Lisa got there in about 5 seconds.) Then she saves him from being murdered after he manages to get himself kidnapped by the murderer . Then she hands him everything he needs to convict the industrialist.

Which kind of begs the question ... why is he the hero of the story? He's essentially ineffectual. He accomplishes almost nothing himself. He's merely the socially acceptable face of the investigation -- the Man Who Does Not Have A Tattoo.

It's a dictum, particularly in screenwriting, that the hero is supposed to be the prime mover of the plot. And indeed, most screenplays where the hero isn't the prime mover of the plot (in opposition to the antagonist of course), fail.

But there are some fairly consequential hit films where the main character is barely more than a witness to the events of the screenplay. TWILIGHT is another example. Bella does nothing to attract Edward. And then she's caught up in all sorts of shenanigans because she's with Edward. And she does nothing to save herself. Edward does all the work, along with the guy who takes his shirt off all the time.

There are event some fairly consequential novels where the main character is along for the ride. Ishmael is the narrator of MOBY DICK. Ahab is arguably the villain. Though perhaps you could call him the anti-hero.

What's going on here? Why do these stories work? Usually it really is bad to have a passive hero. But here it works.

Or, is Lisbeth really the eponymous hero of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, even though the film seems to be from Mikael's point of view, and starts with him (and is a story about a journalist written by a journalist)?

I wonder if in all of these cases the storyteller is using an ordinary character, a foil, to tell a story about a character who is so far out hard to get into their head. Lisbeth is severely damaged. Edward is a vampire. Ahab is twisted by vengeance. Maybe the storytellers have decided it is more interesting to watch them from the outside and try to guess what is going on with them, rather than looking out at the world with their eyes, and missing what is going on with them?

(You could theoretically tell the story from their point of view but then you get into untrustworthy narrators, which might be too subtle for a movie.)

You don't have to do it that way. TAXI DRIVER manages without a foil, and Travis Bickle is pretty far out. But it seems like an interesting way to tell a story. And it seems to work.


I'm guessing it's because the movie is based on a book, like Twilight. Books often have passive main characters who tell/observe great stories. That's part of the challenge of adaptations.

In theory, you could probably, say, cut Nick Carraway out of a movie version of The Great Gatsby without hurting the story. But the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo needs the set-up, and it needs two investigators, etc.

It's interesting how movies are"supposed" to have active protagonists, but do fine with passive heroes when they're based on books.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 11:16 AM  

I have a theory about Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, for which I have read the book and seen the Fincher movie version.

I think Mr. Larsson was writing the novel, his first ever, and made the mistake where you make yourself the star of it. Midway through the novel, he realized that was kinda boring. Then he created Lizbeth, who basically was so awesome that she took over the book. He went back and slotted her in earlier in the novel in some ways that don't flow very well, but at least it was less boring. He had her do great stuff at the end, basically most of the cool stuff. He changed the name of the book. In the end, that book is nothing without her.

I haven't seen the Swedish film, but if it's anything like the Fincher film, the book is much much more about Bloomkvist. He does a lot more valuable investigation, getting info Lisbeth, who lives only online, can't get. But she's so cool, in the movie adaptation process she's in at least 60% of the movie, while she's only in 30% of the novel.

I believe the later books, which I haven't read yet, are much more about her, because by then he'd figured out what he on his hands.

But as you say, it works. But she's the co-hero at least, if not the main hero, even though the first book isn't structured that way.

- Richard

By Blogger RR3, at 4:55 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.