Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lest a whole month go by without a review, let me tell you about a great film I saw yesterday.

But first I’ll remind readers that I am no fan of serial killer films (or books). Sure, The Silence of the Lambs was a classic, but in general I find the current preoccupation with serial killers quite disturbing and uninteresting (well, okay, there’s Dexter, but Dexter is something special). Of course, I had no idea that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a serial killer film. Had I known, I might have stayed away and missed seeing one of my favourite films of the year.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, is a Swedish film based on the bestselling book by Stieg Larsson. It stars Michael Nykvist , a great Swedish actor who also starred in As it is in Heaven (coincidentally reviewed just below - who’d have thought we’d have two Swedish films reviewed back to back?). Nykvist plays Mikael Blomqvist, an investigative journalist hired by a wealthy older man to find out who killed his 16-year-old niece (who babysat Blomqvist when he was a young boy) some forty years before. Watching Blomqvist (with some help) use his investigative skills to discover the truth behind the girl’s disappearance makes for a very satisfying suspenseful thriller, thanks to the fact that it’s heavy on intelligence and avoids the excessive use of action (which you just know Hollywood will fail to do with its inevitable remake). But The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is much more than just a thriller and it isn’t even really about Blomqvist. It’s about the girl with the dragon tattoo. Her presence in the film lifts this thriller to another level of storytelling altogether. Combined with the story Blomqvist is investigating, it turns the whole film into an epic drama. Who is this girl? Her name is Lisbeth Salander and she’s a young woman with a horrible past and obvious psychological problems who is also a genius and Sweden’s top computer hacker; a fascinating combination to be sure. Salander, brilliantly played by Noomi Rapace, takes an interest in Blomquist’s investigation and eventually joins him.

I’ve said more than enough about the well-written plot, just one of the film’s exceptional characteristics (along with acting, directing, cinematography and music). But what makes the film special is the time it takes to tell its various stories and bring them to a satisfying conclusion (though we all know there is more coming - it’s the first of a trilogy). This is a very long film, but despite the lack of action (or because of it) I was riveted throughout. I can’t wait for the next instalment, though I hope it’s not about serial killers again.

I should mention that while The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has some very disturbing scenes, especially involving violence against women, these scenes are in no way gratuitous and there is actually an attempt to address the idea of redemptive violence, which is always welcome. It’s a dark film and certainly not for everyone, but it just slips into the **** category. My mug is up.