Is 'Dragon Tattoo' Really About the Wagner Clan?

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An old, musty family business, deep sibling rivalries, Germanic names: Is the Vanger family in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” based on the family of Richard Wagner and his descendents? An article in the Los Angeles Times details the uncanny similarities between classical music’s most notorious dynasty and that of the movie based on the bestseller by Stieg Larsson.

The Times writer, David Ng, is careful to point out that, because Larsson died in 2004, it’s difficult to know whether the parallels were deliberate but “the similarities are rather too abundant to be pegged to chance alone.”

The Vangers were a high profile European family defined primarily by infighting and estrangement. “Bad blood runs ice cold; siblings and cousins are no longer on speaking terms. To complicate matters, Nazi sympathies run deep in this family, like a defective gene inherited by successive generations.”

“The real-life Wagners,” Ng continues, “are no strangers to internal strife, or to Nazi sympathies for that matter.” Richard Wagner’s daughter-in-law, Winifred Wagner, was a close friend of Adolf Hitler welcomed the dictator to the Bayreuth Festival, which she eventually directed. Yet in both families, there is at least one upstanding member who represents moral rectitude, notably Henrik Vanger (played by Christopher Plummer) and Gottfried Wagner, the composer's great-grandson.

There are even similar names: Gottfried, Richard and Fredrik/Friedrich can be found in both dynasties.

As Olivia Giovetti discussed recently on Operavore, Wagner turns up in two other films this season: David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" and Lars von Trier's "Melancholia,” informing both the characters and adding a musical subtext.

What do you think? Does Ng’s theory hold up?