Directors remake foreign films for U.S.A. audiences

By William Bonfiglio


Filmmaking has consistently been a successful enterprise in the United States but in the last few years, even the most talented Hollywood directors have lost their creativity.

Hollywood studios have been clutching at straws, falling back on recycled storylines and unimaginative premises or, as more studios have found successful, adapting foreign films. Of movie critic Richard Roeper’s list of best movies of the past decade, only five out of the top 10 were completely American in origin. On the Internet movie database (, only “The Dark Knight,” “Memento,” “Avatar” and “WALL-E” were similarly American in origin among the top 10 ranked films of the decade.

Many of the films that topped both lists originated in Asia. Notable examples include “Spirited Away,” “House of Flying Daggers,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The Departed.”

In the past year, filmmakers have been looking to the West for creative inspiration. Scandinavian films have reached a status of enormous popularity among American audiences, with notable favorites including “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl who Played with Fire” and “Let the Right One In.”

“Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist chronicles the interactions between 12-year-old Oskar and his new neighbor, Eli, and the traumatic upheaval Eli causes in their town. It is, to be blunt, a juggernaut of raw emotion and unparalleled craft.

It is bittersweet to read reviews that it retains many of the techniques that made the Swedish version such a success. While this is a safe approach to remaking a successful film, it is unsatisfying in its unwillingness to try something new.

Isn’t that the entire point of remaking a film: to improve upon its imperfections? At the very least, directors should be able to create a work equally enthralling and new. Many wonder what Reeves has done, to make the film his own or give it a more American feel, besides moving its setting from Stockholm to New Mexico.

Perhaps the American adaption of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a more popular story based on the book by Steig Larsson, will be more fulfilling.  Director David Fincher is very well regarded for his work on films like “Se7en” (1995), “Fight Club” (1999) and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008).

Alterations, both subtle and quite pronounced, have been noted in Fincher’s films, and it is all too likely that the changes have played a significant role in the films’ success. “Fight Club” has become an enormously popular and influential cult classic, inspiring the establishment of fight clubs everywhere from Menlo Park, California to Princeton University. “Benjamin Button” became an even greater hit, winning awards for best art direction, visual effects, supporting actress, cinematography and director at a variety of award ceremonies and was named the best picture at the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards and The Houston Film Critics Society Awards.

Fincher achieved success because he recognized the difference between an unremarkable remake and a fresh excursion into compelling storytelling. If Reeves and the directors that follow him hope to reap similar success, they should keep this in mind. From what has been published thus far about his “Let The Right One In” remake, you’d best tether your hopes down.

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