The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Art & Culture

If you have read the original novel, and/or seen the Swedish movie, you will find no plot surprises here. With one or two minor exceptions, this film stays faithful to both the content and the spirit of the book. So why go and see it? Because it is directed by David Fincher, and he is a director who knows how to make films.

It too me a while to buy into the fact that what I was watching was anything other than an English language version of a film I'd already seen, only with Bond as Blomqvist, the crusading journalist who gets his fingers burnt when he tries to expose the corruption of a rich business tycoon. But gradually, I became hooked by the irresistible combination of sound and vision that is Fincher's trademark. The soundtrack (by Trent Reznor) is as much a part of the rhythm and pace of the film as what we are watching on the screen.

As well as Daniel Craig, we have the much lesser known Rooney Mara as Lizbeth Salander, who is inevitably going to be compared to Noomi Rapace, the best reason to see the Swedish film. Fortunately, Mara comes up with her own performance which does justice to Stieg Larsson's character and yet has her own special brilliance. In Mara's hands, Salander is a little more elfin, but equally lethal, an avenging angel who would scare any self-respecting woman-abuser out of his tiny mind. The two of them are the reason the story works. Lizbeth may not be a very credible character but she is certainly a memorable one. The rest of the story of detection, revenge, and a disjointed love affair is the stuff of everyday potboilers, but as Jonathan Demme showed with Silence Of The Lambs, an unoriginal story with a strong central character – in both cases an apparently vulnerable young woman who is infinitely stronger than she seems – can be regenerated and illuminated by a director with real talent.

Watching a film when you know exactly what is going to happen is an odd experience, and it is a testimony to Fincher's skill, that I felt the tension that he generates throughout the film even though there was nothing in the plot to surprise me. He made a wise decision to film in Sweden, so that even though everyone speaks English (most of them with a faint accent), the film belongs to the landscape in which the book was set. Equally, no concessions are made to the desirability of getting a lower rating in order to achieve bigger audience figures. This is a hard core film, with all the sexual violence that was in the book. Remember that the original novel in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. And the the trilogy illustrates the lengths (and depths) that some men will go to to torture and abuse women for reasons that I'm not qualified to analyse.
So don't go and see this if you are easily upset or shocked. The Artist will give you a far more pleasurable night out. But as serial killer movies go, it's the best since Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling first appeared together 20 years ago.


Philip Raby

Content kindly supplied by Phil Raby from the excellent

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