I went into this film wearing my badge of pride; I avoided the trailers and the, apparently larger than it seems, hype surrounding the adoration of the posthumously published “Millennium” trilogy that sparked its very own inevitable cinematic retelling. I wasn’t influenced by a friend who read the books or someone who could vouch for the film. I wasn’t interested in figuring out where it came from and I wasn’t prepared for anything in particular.
The film deals with the most universally frequent curiosities our time: violence, death, war, murder, sex, rape, racism, conspiracy, betrayal and the list goes on. When such themes are introduced we naturally respond with strong opinions. We ask questions: Why did this happen? How can we stop it? However, these questions are often overshadowed by the primary nature of the film. Great filmmakers, i.e. Michael Haneke, Lars Von Trier and Ingmar Bergman just to name a few, are able to stray away from the cliched conventions and admit that humanity is not that easily understood. They ask questions, leaving the answering to those who are willing to seek the hidden truth—ones interpretation becomes limitless. This brings me to my many problems with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Things I liked
- The character Lizabeth was particularly interesting to me. Though she wasn’t necessarily a completely original cinematic figure I cant think of one other “punk-rock computer hacker chick”. She was inspiration to those who have been through what she’s been through or know someone who has. A very relatable person. Though unfortunately her development was slowed and often redirected as a result of the films unfortunately dull narrative structure.
- The relationship between Lizabeth and Mikael was often portrayed excellently. Though I’m still not sure as to why she was so attracted to him in the beginning of their relationship (just out of curiosity? doesn’t seem very stable an argument) but towards the end of the film their moments together are wonderfully expressive and believable.
- The Swedish language: I’m a sucker for foreign languages especially when a women are speaking and especially Swedish women…but enough about me.
Things I didn’t like
- The rape scene: This scene was a tricky one. Did it build character? Yes. Did it provoke emotions? Yes. Was it necessary? …
I’ve given you the answers of the first two questions because they are quite simple. Anyone who has seen the film can answer them. The third question is not that simple. When we are witness to the worst conditions of humanity things become less straightforward, so it seems. Herein lies a major problem. The purpose of that scene is a mystery to me. We know she has had a violent past. We know she is a tough gal. The first long, drawn-out 45 minutes of the film had already tuned us in to what kind of woman she is. The way she dressed, her smug, but deservedly so, demeanor and that cold stare; these things, along with some glaring cliches, make up the being of Lizabeth. Now if I asked you how she came to be like this you would probably have some strong opinions on the matter. In fact your analysis would probably be very accurate. Then why show the rape? Why even introduce the guardian character to begin with? If the entire scene was to demonstrate how she would react to being victimized than we are approaching some seriously twisted sense of retribution. The feminist argument is strong in this film, particular in the revenge scene that follows the rape. At this point interpretation is out the window and we are handed a plate of raw, hateful retaliation. This could have been avoided altogether and in fact would have made her final decision, one that had major influence on the narrative, all the more unexpected. Instead we are left with a satisfying revenge episode that has absolutely no impact on anything else in the film.
- The plot: Once we get past the “supposedly important” first chapter of the film we are left with an unfortunately sluggish rendition of Sherlock Holmes. The criminal investigation was not exciting. If you are looking for provocative mystery shrouded in religious conspiracy and hair-raising discovery than go watch The Wicker Man (1973). Nothing about the actual plot of “The Girl…” is stimulating. The melodrama was thick, heavy-handed and they gave us no room to breathe. We become mentally detached to this charade of secrecy and illusion that, somehow, Mikael and Lizabeth find so intriguing; using pictures and Bible verses (which didn’t merit the large amount of screen time they was given) to figure out whodunit. Maybe if I was there with them, looking for the killer, interpreting the Bible and getting shot at, I would have been interested. As it is I didn’t fee like I was contributing to their progression at all. The fact that every major plot twist was entirely predictable didn’t help. It doesn’t take a genius hacker and veteran journalist to figure out who was sending those flowers to old man Vagner.
- The Title: There is nothing to be said about this. They should have stuck with the original Swedish title of the novel “Men Who Hate Women”.
- The ending: Something about the last 20 minutes of the film really bothered me. I was so underwhelmed by everything that had happened prior to the climax that when we actually were in the midst of some sort of struggle it all felt out of place. Again predictability plays a role here. I wasn’t at all scared for Mikael’s life I knew what was going to happen; that none of the major characters would die, of course. Their relationship wasn’t finished. The villain wasn’t that believable. Now I’m not saying that every villain must be scary that would be completely unrealistic but something about an old Swedish Nazi who has been killing women for pleasure just turned me off to the horror of it all.
Films that did it better (similar films you really should see regarding the following subject matters)
Suspense: The Ghost Writer
Feminism: La Femme Nikita
Fascinating religious cults: The Wicker Man, Martyrs
I appreciated this film. If I hated it I certainly wouldn’t have written so much. I think genuine, initial reactions are fascinating but to dismiss a film entirely based on the first impression would be inappropriate. Discussing your problems in depth is the first step to understanding who you are as a person. I have a lot more to say about the film but I thought a quick yet conscious review would be a good start.