Let’s Make a Hollywood Version of this!

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by Ann Giles

It’s a shame foreign things are so rubbish. It makes you want to sort them out, making sure that everything is much better the second time round.

I once took The Son to a British dentist. I fully intended to be polite. We entered the room and I found myself saying ‘Hello, I’m Swedish and I think Swedish dentists are the best.’ Luckily for me the lovely Glaswegian dentist smiled and informed me Scottish dentists are also the best. And that was that. But I was awfully surprised by what had slipped out.

So I should have been prepared when I took my own teeth to a British dentist recently to find that he could barely conceal his surprise over my foreign (=Swedish) dentist’s excellent work. ‘He’s done a fantastic job,’ he muttered while trying to undo the fantastic job.

Is this why foreign films - even the really good ones - now have to be remade by English-speaking people?

I was totally unprepared for the remake of Let the Right One In, and felt that not only could you not expect to improve on the Swedish original, but there is only so much blood you want sucked out by pretty little vampires. Reading up on the new film Let Me In, I gathered that only advanced people in larger cities and with access to indie cinemas would have seen the original. Hence the need to ‘pay homage’ by making an American, folksier version.

It’s not simply my rebellious nature that prevents me from going along to see Let Me In. I can’t cope with more blood. Any curiosity or wish to compare will have to give way.

With all the media fizz in Sweden over the three Stieg Larsson Millennium films, the last thing I expected them to be were ‘budget films’. But that’s what they were to the Americans. Apart from being in the wrong language, obviously. I feel for them. I really do. If you don’t grow up learning to read subtitles it must be hard to adapt when the rest of the world grow fond of foreign entertainment, and you have to, in order to join in.

I was less enraged over the idea of Brad Pitt, or anyone else, playing Mikael Blomkvist. It was the thought that they’d try and make California look like the wintry North of Sweden which rankled. And now it seems they have realised this, and are filming their superior version in Sweden. As the Swedes say, it’s good because it brings in money for all the extras involved in making the film.

The annoying thing is that I will be curious to see if they’ve pulled it off, so have to go and see the film. And that in itself puts money in Hollywood coffers. Which is precisely what I’d like to avoid, because it will only encourage them.

The Danes had the same thing happen to them. I went to see Brothers in February, without realising it was a remake. I had heard of the Danish original, Brødre, but had not seen it. Presumably because its foreignness made it less accessible in the English speaking world where I live. Investing two hours in seeing Brothers I’m glad it was a good remake. But I still feel one is enough.

Are we ready for a Hollywood Ingmar Bergman?

( Below: a clip from the Swedish version of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

Image by TVFH using film poster & image layer by Thomas Anderson


Anonymous said...

I think you pretty much set the tone for everything you said with the first paragraph, which actually works against you here.

Everyone is going to think their nation has "the best this and the best that." So, this is really just your national pride and comfort in what's familiar blinding your views on anyone who steps on your sidewalk.

It's hard to open a closed mind.

Brian said...

I think the problem does lie with the studio system and its contempt with its audiences. All audiences on both sides are the alantic are open to foreign language films and there is probably a bigger audience. It is down to the studio and distribution companies to stop behaving like cowards and give these great films which dont need remakes, a chance. There was less than a year between the release of 'Let The Right One In'and 'Let Me In', its like burying your wife on a monday and introducing you kids to a new wife on tuesday.

culturewitch said...

Hello Anonymous,

Nice to meet you. The first sentence was - of course - irony. Living in two countries I already battle with two lots of people who 'know' theirs is best.

I love American films, and most films I see are probably from America, despite me being more open to 'other' films than many.

And you are so right about your last sentence.

You are also right about what I feel comfortable with, but that's less to do with films than the rest of life.

Ann Giles

Meg Rosoff said...

As an American living in London, I find the best thing about the English is the genuine affection for their (self-professed) "crap" country, which is such a relief after all the jingoism one encounters in the US these days. I haven't seen the new version of Let The Right One In, but it is hard to imagine it's better than the original. ON the other hand, if it gets to a larger audience, and is (as the New Yorker critic said) an excellent remake, then we may have to be uncynical about it. As for British dentists. Don't get me started.