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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Violence, a sexually abused heroine and the forbidding wintry landscape of director David Fincher's new "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" film may alter any pre-conceived notions of Sweden as a socialist paradise.
Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, who plays the corporate executive of a family firm with a terrible secret, said that although the film explores a very fictional dark side of society its portrayal of feminine strength was particularly Swedish.
"Such a strong female hero as we have in this film and such a soft male hero as we have in this film, I think that is typical Swedish," he told reporters when he hit the red carpet for the Stockholm premiere of the Hollywood version of Swedish author Stieg Larsson's best-selling thriller.
Sweden is known for its cradle-to-grave welfare system and IKEA department stores. The film and books paint another picture, more in tune with its bleak and cold winters and a dark side found in a number of Swedish crime novels that have taken the publishing world by storm in the last decade.
Skarsgard said foreigners in general did not know much about the small Scandinavian country and hoped that Sweden would not be too associated with the crime wave genre that has put Swedish Noir at the top of the modern world's literary map.
"I hope they don't think that the way Sweden is portrayed in those books and films is the way Sweden is, because it is still a very peaceful and lovely and very nice country to live in," he said.
The film received solid early reviews and critics especially praised Rooney Mara's appearance as the fearless sexual abuse survivor and punkish computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Mara said it was essential that much of the film was made in Sweden.
"Some people questioned why we came to Sweden to make the film and why we did not just make our American version in America but I don't think you can really tell the story without telling it in Sweden. I think it is a very Swedish story, I think all the characters are very Swedish," she said.
In the story, Salander teams up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist in search of a killer. Blomkvist is played by British actor Daniel Craig, best known for the role of James Bond.
"What it tells about Sweden for me is that there is a huge story-telling tradition here and it is a sort of dark tale, something that we can all relate to in Northern Europe. They have worldwide mass appeal it seems," Craig said.
"Dragon Tattoo" is the first of the late Larsson's best-selling Millennium trilogy of books, which has sold more than 60 million copies in 48 countries worldwide.
Helena Lindblad, a film critic at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, said the huge success of the books and the films had opened the world market for other Scandinavian authors and actors, for example Noomi Rapace who played Salander in the Swedish adaption of the trilogy for the screen.
"This success of Stieg Larsson's is definitely the icebreaker. It is quite unreal and has opened doors for Swedish Crime or Swedish Noir or whatever you want to call it and that it has become a term associated with these films and books," Lindblad, who attended the Swedish premiere late on Tuesday, said.
Lindblad said she really liked the film. And though remakes in general were "not particularly exciting" cinematically, director Fincher, whose credits include "Seven" and "Fight Club," added qualities, not the least visually.
She also said the interaction between the main characters was stronger in the Hollywood adaption than in the Swedish original. She said Fincher captured Sweden in an excellent way.
Salvador Munoz, a fan who was celebrity spotting at the premiere, said that Fincher could add "more of Stieg Larsson-darkness" to the film. He said Evil was Fincher's signature.
"It is man's other side, the dark side of people. He portrays it so well," Munoz said.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" opens in the United States on December 20.
Editing by Paul Casciato