One of the most satisfying aspects of the Swedish films of The Stieg Larsson Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / The Girl Who Played with Fire / The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) is that they were emotionally complex – the very element that many fear will be missing from the impending David Fincher version of the first book.
Now fans can get an even more extended look into the Swedish films as their originally-designed-for-TV format has become available in a 4-disc box that includes a bonus disc of interviews with Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth Salander with such style, and one with co-star Michael Nyqvist, who plays Millennium magazine’s investigative reporter, Mikael Blomkvist. (The movies are in Swedish, with English subtitles.)
Bruce Kirkland, the media critic for the Toronto Sun who brought this to our attention, notes that each of the original films is broken into two parts to meet the requirements of a six-part TV mini-series with only The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo set to become a shorter theatrical release. Each part runs between 92 and 94 minutes. Put them together and the running time is nine hours, 18 minutes and one second. Says Kirkland: “Every second counts and they are truer to Larsson’s savage best-sellers.”
“In these long versions, you get different opening credits over vivid color paintings that look like a graphic novel. Dozens of scenes play slightly longer, with subtle changes. There are many more establishing shots of the Swedish locations. Directors Niels Arden Oplev, on the superior first film, and Daniel Alfredson, on the slower-paced, workmanlike sequels, mostly filmed where the novels were set.
More significantly, entire subplots are restored and characters dramatically fleshed out. This is especially true for the sequels. For example, you learn much more about Erika Berger (played by Lena Endre). She is the manager of Millennium magazine and our hero’s best friend and sometimes lover. You also get much more of the hero’s relationship with his lawyer sister, Annika Giannini (played by Annika Hallin). This is important because of the crucial role she plays in Hornet’s Nest as a women’s rights advocate. There is also far more detail about the police, the secret service and the entire web of characters — both heroic and evil — that populate Larsson’s creation.”
“More is not just better in the Dragon Trilogy,” says Kirkland, “it is absolutely crucial in understanding the complexities of this modern moral fable.”
The timing of this new release is clearly linked to the December debut of David Fincher’s version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but if you love Larsson’s opus, seeing the Swedish trilogy in the extended edition before watching what Fincher is doing should allow a fascinating comparison.