The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

by director Niels Arden Oplev

When I read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for the first time, it was nowhere near as popular as the novel is now. I expected a traditional thriller, but as I quickly turned the pages, I found something much more.  It was not only a thriller. It was also a mystery drama with strong and special characters, which develop throughout the story. I immediately felt a strong connection with Lisbeth, the dark rebel, and Blomkvist, the leftist watchdog.

The producer Sören Stærmose came to me with the project. My condition for signing on was having overall artistic control. I saw this as the only way to make a successful film based on such a popular novel. Every decision had to be about making the best possible film.

I wanted a film with strong emotions, high credibility and very realistic characters. The visual style and production design had to convey a cinematic experience. Entertaining yet also edgy and with a distinguished Nordic feel. And I wanted all the small clues and details in Larsson’s book to be there – old still photos, which make Harriet come alive, old footage from the bridge accident and the Vanger family. The pictures convey the feeling of experiencing a whole century.

Larsson wrote about injustice and violence against women. It was very important for me to transfer that to the film.  That’s why the violence in the film feels so realistic.  Lisbeth is the most important female heroine to emerge from Scandinavia in decades and she is a strong inspiration for many women. No matter what is done to her, she always fights back. She never allows herself to become a victim.

There must be a special connection between the actor and the character. An emotional investment which enriches the written character from the script. Michael Nyqvist presents us with the humanity, empathy and heavyweight intellectualness which we expect from his character, Michael Blomkvist. And he does this so well, we want to follow him throughout the whole story. Noomi Rapace transformed herself into her character and breathed her out of every pore, not only physically but also mentally. Her performance as Lisbeth Salander is nothing less than outstanding.

The feeling on the set was that every shooting day was a battle for quality. A battle we were determined to win. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became the best selling film in Europe in 2009 and the only Scandinavian film in history to cross 100 million dollars.

I hope you will enjoy it as well.

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