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Too Many Tattoos?

Friday 3 February 2012, 10:04

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been made twice - once in Swedish and once in the English language.

The Hollywood remake has had a favourable reception but what does the box office tell us about the two films?

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    Comment number 1.

    I do not see what all this problem is with reading subtitles, I have never had any problems doing so when watching foreign films and still managing to follow the action. In fact I find it very hard to watch something like Jackie Chan films dubbed into English because it just does not match up (although I understand that dubbing chinese films into any other language is extremely difficult when it comes to synching). When I lived in Spain I was fine watching all my foreign films dubbed (as there is a big dubbing academy in Spain), however, after having spent fourteen years living in England I find it impossible to watch a foreign film dubbed into Spanish as what the lips are saying and what I am hearing no longer match up. If English or Spanish is not the language they were originally filmed in, give me subtitles everytime.

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    Comment number 2.

    It's true that subtitles are distracting, but not as much as over-dubbing, in my opinion.

    I've now seen both versions of TGWTDG in the last few weeks, both have their merits, but I did prefer the original.

    Maybe I'm attuned to the Scandanavian eye on the world, especially as a fan of the original Wallander series, The Killing, and Flammen & Citronen on TV the other night.

    I'm happy for remakes to be produced, even if the original was well received. Each version can live or die on its own merits.

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    Comment number 3.

    The Yanks can handle subtitles when it suits them - i.e. Trainspotting. And with all the mumbling and half-whispering that goes on in US movies & TV shows these days, the subtitles option on a DVD is essential (without them, The Wire might as well be in Klingon).

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    Comment number 4.

    Fincher's biggest grossing film is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Box office means nothing.

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    Comment number 5.

    I disagree Dr. K. Having seen both versions and read the book, I think the Fincher version is the better. True Noomi Rapace gave the better performance and Rooney Mara's Oscar nomination is farce (especially at the expense of Tilda Swinton) but I think that Fincher's version did add something. I have agreed in the past that English language remakes are rarely ever up their foreign counterpart's standard but in this case I disagree.
    I thought Fincher's version was more coherent and bar Noomi's, had better performances all round (even Julian Sands).
    A big thing that has also annoyed me is the lack of praise for Daniel Craig. Not being a big Daniel Craig fan, i have warmed to him over the last few years and I think this is one, if not the best performance of his career so far.
    Fincher's films have rarely had mainstream box office appeal (look at Fight Club, The Game and Zodiac), that doesn't mean they are not great films. I am big Fincher fan and want him to finish the series because as we know, the Swedish series got weaker as they went along.

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    Comment number 6.

    I almost always think remakes are unnecessary unless they do something radically different with the source material (as with Carpenter's "The Thing", Cronenberg's "The Fly" and Hawks' "His Girl Friday"). I haven't seen the Fincher version of Girl and, frankly, aren't that interested in doing so as i loved the Swedish version so much and thought it was such a perfect adaptation, that I feel it would be an insult to the filmmakers to give money to what is essentially a copy with a different language. I think there has to be a genuine artistic reason for remaking a film, and can much more understand people remaking bad films, or B-movies, rather than just photocopying a film in a different language.

    The only english language remake that I prefer to the original is Chris Nolan's "Insomnia", which I felt was a tighter, more focussed and better made than the original, though I still liked the original.

    I don't think the problem is necessarily subtitles though, but rather promotion. Take the example of Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds". I never heard anyone complain that a good portion of the film is subtitled. People still went to see it because it was well marketed, highly anticipated and

    Fincher's movie had wall to wall trailers, posters and video bits from months before it was complete (including the awesome Zeppelin infused trailer you alluded to with your credits) whereas the Swedish version I didn't even know had been made until I read about it in "Empire", wasn't on anywhere near me and, as such, only found its feet on DVD.

    Most people don't read film magazines or pay that much attention to critics (much as it pains me to say), but hear about films via trailers, posters on the sides of buses etc. and as a result are often totally unaware what foreign films are out there for their delectation. Unless some massive studio gets behind them and promotes them accordingly, I don't see foreign films making much headway among those of us who aren't serious cinephiles.

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    Comment number 7.

    Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with the film being re-done in "American". It is, as near as makes no difference, an adaptation made solely for the American market (as proven by the market specific figures, i.e. American vs international). The Americans are the ones who need to start reading subtitles. The reason for their unwillingness to do so is a discussion for another time (although their *ahem* world view and perception of themselves might have something to do with it).

    The point goes beyond sutbtitles though. If you compare the two movies, the Swedish and American, you can spot a different view on women. The original Lisbeth Salander is stronger and nowhere near as depending on the Mikael Blomqvist character. For example, in the original sex scene between the two, she is on top and in charge. In the American version, he is (or ends up anyway).

    In other words, an adaptation for the American market goes beyond subtitles. For that to change, the Americans will have to embrace opinions and values different from theirs and we all know how that normally plays out..

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    Comment number 8.

    Alot of these types of films do hugely well when they get released for sale/ rental. I expect that's where it'll make a large portion of it's cash.

    You talk about the original film doing very well at the box office but are you including it's rental and sales in that hundred odd million? I mean, how widespread was it's cimematic release anyway?

    In all honesty I'd never ever go to see a subtitled film at the flicks ever again. I've seen two subbed films and they were horrible experiences. Somebodies head will ruin a film like this because you can't read through a big bonce. But a head won't usually ever be an issue as the general focus of a film is the center of the screen.

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    Comment number 9.

    We absolutely do have to grow up over this issue of subtitles - I watch at least as many films with subtitles as without - If not I would be missing out on a some of the greatest film ever made -
    I feel sorry for all those people who will never experience the many treasures of world cinema because of their prejudice -

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    Comment number 10.

    *^ In an English language film I mean.

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    Comment number 11.

    As much as I want to go with your argument here, and I agree with your conclusion, I have to point out that there's a weakness in your assumption that the Scandinavian original played with subtitles and soundtrack intact everywhere, it is very likely that it may have been dubbed for certain markets. In some places, such as Paris, it is not unusual to find simultaneous release of films in VO (version original with French subtitles) and VF (version francaise, dubbed). Some Studio Ghibli films have enjoyed both subtitled and dubbed versions released here, although phoning your local cinema and asking "sub or dub?" may make them think you have different predilections entirely.

    On the plus side, I think that it's clear that the original of Girl... has trumped the international box office of the redo, if neither Swedish or English are your first languages, why see the same story again? The Japan horror blip to the contrary can be explained by the fan behaviour there which would most probably want to see the Americanized versions as much as repeat view their native product.

    As for language barriers, I once went to see a screening of Barry Lyndon in Brussels. Looking forward to re-viewing the stunning images that carry the problematic storytelling, only to find (silly me) that the screen was covered in two sets of subtitles, French and Flemish. How I wish Kubrick had reserved his ire to throw a wobbly at that print, rather than at the Scala cinema for screening Clockwork.

    My brother lived for some time in Gabarone Botswana and film going was interesting there as the international and multi tribal community meant loud simultaneous translations by friends for friends throughout. Someday they'll genetically engineer the Babelfish.

    The Girl...'s American remake's under-performance may have halted production on the French language version by Jean-Pierre Jeunet: The Girl with the Audrey Tautou.

    Kidding aside, Mark Cousins History of Film recently pointed out a number of noir classics, including Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, began as remakes of continental fare. The remake question can be done to death, but it always comes down to is it a good movie or not (regardless of source material from whatever previous format or language)?

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    Comment number 12.

    So Mark did you read the book in Swedish? I didn't think so, Translation isn't a bad thing, it allows better access to, and fuller involvement in, the story.

    And of course by "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" we mean "Men who hate Women" which is what the book is actually called in Swedish.

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    Comment number 13.

    Normally I am not a big fan of remakes – unless they add something to the picture. One of the big exceptions, in my view, is the Dutch remake of “Love, actually” under the (literally) lovely titel “Alles is liefde”. They took the concept of “Love, actually”, but gave it a very Dutch touch. Add to this a wonderful script with hilariously funny scenes and a set of fabulous actors (including the delightful Carice van Houten) and this is the ultimate feel-good-movie.

    I don't think it is very well known outside the Netherlands but would deserve some international attention (although some things might be lost in translation). And it would be on the top of my list regarding successful remakes with a twist.


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    Comment number 14.

    "So Mark did you read the book in Swedish? I didn't think so."

    There it is.

    I'd also like to point out (and be controversial), Rooney Mara's Oscar nomination is completely deserved and a better, more accurate portrayal of the Lisbeth Salander in the book. The character works better with an actress who doesn't look like she could kick your head in. Mara's performance is all about the fact that despite being very head strong and wilful she is vulnerable, she also displays an array of emotions rather than just moody, which makes the character more sympathetic.

    In this film we are invited to see the film through the eyes of her, whilst in the original, because the character was so difficult, we found comfort in Blomkvist. Which isn't supposed to be the case.

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is incomparable in terms of box office to the original because it has only been out for a month. It hasn't appeared in different territories yet and has yet to come out on DVD, so to say the original has been a bigger hit comparatively is kind of bogus.

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    Comment number 15.

    While I do think Fincher's version is subtly better, filming, streamlining of the story etc, I was not going to ever touch a remake of them because I thought the American money would want the story scrubbed down.

    He didn't do that and that means people have seen this one, will go an see the next two (if they get made) and actually get the things the books talk about to a broader audience. I can't see that as anything but a good thing.

    Your general point is valid, remaking something simply to get rid of subtitles weird and pointless, but then I have 600 wpm reading speed (no, not even close to the really fast people)

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    Comment number 16.

    Makr, I would like to defend people who do not like subtitles. I, myself have no problem with subtitles and have no problem watching subtitled films. However my mum has a really problem, she says she can't keep up with the subtitles and gets confused by it. I think that dubbing a film could help people like my mum who can't read the subtitles quick enough. Why not have a dubbing option open by headphones set that would come free or you are told to bring headphones with you a not to inconvience other patrons. Yes while I think we should watch subtitles people like my mum can't so how are they goioing to watch films like the Girl with the dragon tattoo.

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    Comment number 17.

    I, like most people; do not have have a problem with subtitles, in fact I would say to an extent they help to make a film more immersive. I do understand why some people would not want to sit through a film whilst reading, and that is fair enough, however I didn't see the Sweedish version until it was released on Blu-Ray; where the first time the movie played, it was not subtitled, but dubbed in English. For the sake of catering to those who prefer to listen to dialog, surely an international release of this version would of been more beneficial to distributors than spending millions of dollars on an entire remake. It worked for 70s kung-fu movies, and their dubbing was awful.

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    Comment number 18.

    Subtitles? What subtitles? If it is a good movie, I barely notice them at all. I don't think vast majority of remakes are necessary. I don’t understand why Let the Right One In was remade, for example. The original was terrific. Go see the original, it will most likely be better.

    AndyGoth was talking about book translations, and how it was translated to English for better access. Surely this what subtitles and dubbing does. The issue here is remaking the movie. Does anyone rewrite books? Not normally.

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    Comment number 19.

    Dr K I am shocked - since when is box office an indication of the worth of anything?

    on the subject - if hollywood wants to waste time and money remaking perfectly good films that will clutter up the listings at the local world of cine so what?

    as long as we have strong independent cinemas where people that care can get to see the originals (in original language with subtitles) I don't see a problem.

    there's no need to legislate on what other people are allowed to enjoy/dislike.

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    Comment number 20.

    While I can't comment about which performance is "better", as subjective as that is, I believe Will Chadwick is completely correct in two very clear points.

    I have a swedish (ex)girlfrend who has read all three books and she favors the US version over the original. Her impression was that Rooney Mara's portrayal was "much more believable". Not being able to read Swedish myself, I can only trust and believe her (a revelation which apparently came too late. Bah-dum-bum.)

    This seems uncharacteristic of Mark—defining a "successful translation" by how large a box-office success it has been generally isn't how Dr Quiff, Medicine Man lines up his films. I never though "box-office success" would be the determining factor in his decision-making process, so I find this an odd and forced argument. Especially odd when he decides to call the race early, before DVD sales are factored in.

    Perhaps it's not enough that one movie is allowed to succeed.
    Perhaps it's that one has to lose.


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