Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the bomb blasts

I watched a bit of the Swedish adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night. It was better than watching ranting anchors and ranting politicians and ranting analysts, but even so I couldn't watch more than 15 minutes. Adaptations usually employ actors who look better than their literary counterparts. It's a sensible policy, because it's easier to read about ugly people than to watch ugly people on screen for extended periods. For some reason, the Swedes decided that they would make all the Dragon Tattoo characters plainer than they are in the book. There's Larsson's hero Mikael Blomkvist, for example, a middle-aged journalist who has a mysterious power over women. For those who have not read Stieg Larsson's trilogy, it's worth knowing that the male characters are, almost all of them, rapists and murderers; Blomkvist is the very opposite. He's good with women, and quite indiscriminate in his tastes. He sleeps with every woman he meets and, unlike James Bond, doesn't even have to seduce them. Without exception, they make the first move. Reading the books, you wonder why so many women would fall for him; and watching the actor playing him makes suspension of disbelief even tougher. Maybe the actor is famous in Sweden, in which case his fame might have compensated for his lack of charm. But the director has decided to film everybody in the most unflattering light possible, so they all look corpse-grey and unsexy in the extreme.
For the English adaptation, they've apparently got James Bond playing Mikael Blomkvist. Daniel Craig will probably be pleased to ditch the seduction routines.
I guess I should say something about the explosions. One was about a kilometer from my home as the crow flies, and another about a kilometer from where I was last evening. I was leaving a Kemp's Corner bookshop when I got a message about the first blast; within a minute all phone lines were jammed. I decided to eat a sandwich in the bookshop's cafe, giving any other bombs that might have been planted time to explode. Afterward I got a cab home. The streets were calm and not very crowded.
Bombs are something we have to live with now. Obviously, like other nasty things we have to live with, such as murder and robbery, it's important to minimise the number of incidents. We haven't had any attacks for two years and a half, which I think is good going. I'll happily take one attack every two years that kills about twenty of us, and accept the risk of being one of those twenty next time round.
For those who don't know Bombay well, more than ten people die on the city's rail tracks every day. Over twenty thousand have died in the past five years hit by trains while trying to cross the tracks. Many of those could've been saved if we had a good rescue service organised. But we don't. We depend on guys living by the tracks who haul bloodied and broken bodies to hospitals, and then wait for tips from relatives of the wounded or dead.
Deaths on rail tracks are very different from deaths from terrorism, of course. The individuals took a risk by crossing the tracks, and broke the law as well. I don't want to suggest an equivalence between the two modes of dying. I'm just pointing to how atrocious our systems and infrastructure are. Considering that, and considering it isn't all that difficult to make a bomb, I'm surprised we have not had more attacks since November 2008. Also that other cities have not had more attacks. We need only look at Pakistan's current condition to understand how bad things could get.


seana graham said...

It's very odd which deaths set us off and which ones don't. In the U.S,it's more traffic deaths often caused by alcohol and gun rampages by unstable people that we seem to have written off. If we hadn't we would have tighter gun control and make the penalty for drunk driving very steep.

Terrorist attacks, of course, we still get very upset about. Enough, sometimes, to go to war over. But again, not always. The homegrown kind is treated largely as criminal.

Girish Shahane said...

True, Seana. And there's a Pavlovian response in the media to certain events. Like, after the terrible floods of six years ago, people now panic every time water rises a bit in Bombay, and TV channels put it at the top of their headlines. But Bombay's always flooded once or twice during the monsoon.

VV said...

Great post, Girish. I have been following every one of your posts and havent commented in a while because I had nothing clever to say. Your Mani Kaul obituary and your pragmatic, zen attitude to the blasts got me out of my stupor. And I totally agree with the Dragon Tattoo review- the Swedish Blomkvist actor reminded me, stereotypically, of Ikea furniture. Functional, sure, but hardly seductive. I liked the actress more- she had this sullen, brooding attitude which fit the character.
Looking forward to the Fincher-Daniel Craig version. I saw the trailer at the theatre the other day. Even the trailer was classic Fincher editing- it got your adrenalin up even in the most mundane scenes.

Girish Shahane said...

Thanks a bunch, VV. I agree about the actress being better in the film. But then, she's so much more interesting in the books as well, particularly the first one. For the first few chapters of 'Dragon Tattoo' I was wondering how on earth it could have become a worldwide bestseller. The book came alive only in the parts where Lisbeth Salander played a role, the Blomkvist sections were ditchwater dull.

adrian mckinty said...


Glad you werent caught up in that.

I find the appeal of the Dragon Tattoo books baffling. Blomkvist seems like such a crushing didactic bore I cant imagine any women falling for him, yet they do - all of them, young, old, rich, poor... If I'd been a publisher I would have made the biggest mistake of my life with these books and refused them with the line "Dull wish fulfillment fantasies of a middle aged Swedish journalist".

For the rest of my life I would have been the man who turned down a goldmine.

Girish Shahane said...

Adrian, yes, as you say, young, old, rich and poor. To which I'll add pixie and Amazon. By the time Blomkvist got it going with the six foot blonde body builder, the whole thing had become a joke. Then again, going by the books, most other males in Sweden appear to be rapists and murderers, so perhaps the women have a very small pool of potential mates to choose from.
I found the second book entertaining. There's a lot of action and the mystery of Lisander's past unravels at nice suspenseful pace. But chunks of the first book were tedious, and the bad guys in the third volume are some pathetic pensioners.

as any fule kno said...
Here's my big problem with the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson- the bad guys never,ever have a real chance of winning.

Girish Shahane said...

Brilliantly written, Herr Dalvi. You should blog more frequently.