Some Blue Eyed Revisionism

Men Who Hate Women (or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the publishers will insist on calling it) is just a week away from it’s UK wide release, and the TV/newspaper wide coverage is starting to reach fever pitch. The booming voice has slipped into a TV spot even more breathless than the knuckleheaded advert discussed in the last post, and from a few adverts in the papers it seems like every publication and its’ dog is giving MWHW (aka TGWTDT) a solid four, if not five out of five.

Which is no bad thing, as I can’t think of a single Swedish title which has ever had comparable pre-release hype. Take your pick of any worthy or big Swedish classic, and I can assure you it’s never found 30 seconds of airtime during the advert break of Death Wish on ITV. The Swedish film industry has desperately been striving for an international breakthrough hit that will warrant the attention of the non-arthouse masses, and up until now repeated been failing at the task miserably. Case in point: the collossal flop that was Arn: The Knight Templar, a multilingual mess of a crusading action film. Built on a successful trilogy of books by a multimillion selling indigenous author, I doubt Svensk Filmindustri have ever thrown so much money in the direction of a single film. When said film then flops to the point of not even breaking the British or American DVD market, then you’re talking about a film of a sub-Seagal standards, without the comfort of the unintentional laughs.

Along comes another multimillion selling trilogy of Swedish books that are, shock horror, actually pretty good in the first place. But talk of not knowing a good thing when you see it, Stieg Larsson’s smash trilogy is optioned, and then commissioned for Swedish television. Recording starts, and it seems that halfways through the recording of the first book someone had the bright idea that maybe this could be sold much better internationally as a feature film. The rest as they say, is history.

It seems to be a trend that top-drawer television is growing to struggle with more and more, and the issue has been echoed in the UK with the Red RidingTrilogy . Another trio of feature length TV specials with a strong literary source, shot with big indigenous names in front of the camera, and genuine visionaries behind it the end product is programme which literarlly pops off the screen. The trilogy has been touring across the States garnering wholly justified ecstatic write-ups from every corner smart enough to look in it’s direction. To have the New York Review of books declare the trilogy ‘better than The Godfather’ carries no small weight. Even Swedish critics have been looking across at the trilogy with hungry eyes, calling for a similar mini-tour to put the ‘film’ back where it belongs: the cinema.

[for fine words on Red Riding and it’s striking/stifling use of location and landscape, you could do a lot worse than check out David Forrest’s take on ‘The North as Abstract’ over at Words on What I’ve Seen.]

While Red Riding has found it’s feet abroad as a markedly British art feature, the selling of the first part in what the distributors are calling ‘The Girl’ trilogy is being played on completely different terms. Audiences familiar with the Anglicized version of Wallander will be more than prepared for ‘The Girl’, as it comes from exactly the same production company (Yellow Bird Films), utilising a lot of the same crew in the production of the film. Both have a very similar feel, bleached colours palettes, following broken souls looking for answers in a series of brutal acts, which in part are endemic of Sweden’s national failings.

The audience unfortunate enough to be stuck in front of Death Wish last weekend will now be approaching ‘The Girl’ with anything BUT the above criteria in mind. The marketing engine can’t seem to decide if ‘The Girl’ being Swedish is a good thing or a bad thing. As previously discussed, the trailer remains mute, but for reasons known only to the advertising team, the promotional material would have you believe that Lisbeth Salander is blue eyed. The exact detail isn’t made clear in the books, and in a straw poll of two the verdict leant towards the literary Lisbeth having green eyes. What is certain is that actress Noomi Rapace has brown eyes, so there’s no doubt that some sort of photoshop skull-duggery is at hand. Which begs the question, why bother?

To present a a sharper vision of Swedishness? Sexy blue-eyed liberal foreignness, a scando marketing tag anyone can get on board with? Maybe if you consider the country in terms ‘racial purity’ and ‘ayrianism’, which last time I checked was one of the very cornerstones of what Stieg Larsson spent his life fighting against. A mountain out of a mole hill maybe, but bloody daft whichever way you cut it.

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