The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)


Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomkvist), Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander), Sven-Bertil Taube (Henrik Vanger). Screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Rating: 18. Running time: 152 minutes.

So this one is cold, and I’m not just referring to the fact it’s set in Scandinavia. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t only look as icy as the place in which it is set; it also sounds it, with the Swedish language ringing so chillingly in the ears, at least for this foreigner. Not only this, however, but the film also has stern-looking protagonists that are quite stunningly alluring yet elusive, and villains that make the night that little bit darker than it needs to be.

Its content is disgusting enough to bring out the emotivist in all of us. Even the most staunch defender of human rights will find it hard not to suspend rationality and be swept away by the desire for retributive justice and corporal or capital punishment, when men as heinous as these are put before their eyes. We see sadistic rape in brutal clarity, and in a way that can only indicate the Hollywood remake to come will be ever so slightly toned down. We discover crimes so shocking that it’s almost as if a film of Josef Fritzl’s life has been partly put onto celluloid. All of which is observed from the perspective of an investigative journalist, hired by an ageing patriarch to solve the disappearance of a teenage girl over forty years ago.

It is from here that the film becomes primarily a crime-based detective thriller, and yet if a textbook were made guiding people through this overdone genre, then The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be the first case study essential to the amateur director. It looks for none of the cheap thrills we’ve grown so accustomed to. For every scene you would normally see an out-of-the-blue revelation arise, before flashbacks complete the jigsaw, here we’re instead filled in with the details well in advance. There’s very few unforeseen shocks because, hallelujah, the film is interested in being exactly that: a film, not a theme park horror ride.

When I referred to the film’s protagonists being alluring, the character I predominantly had in mind was the girl with the dragon tattoo herself: a quirky, short black haired computer hacker named Lisbeth, who comes wearing all leather, sporting two nose piercings and riding a motorbike. We soon learn of her mentally disturbed, violent past, and come to understand the crimes she’s investigating alongside the professional journalist – a middle aged man, soon due in prison after being convicted of libel damages towards a business tycoon – mirror her own memories which perhaps inspire her work even now. The clue is the literal translation of the film’s blunt Swedish title: Men Who Hate Women. You can only appreciate its aptness by seeing the film for yourself. But apt it is, for this most impressive of mysterious films.

One Response to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)”

  1. 1 26 for late 2010, or early 2011 (Part 1) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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