I have to say that Sweden is beginning to have a great reputation in adapting books into the silver screen. Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev helms “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (“Man som hatar kvinnor whose subtitle means “The Man Who Hates Women”) a Swedish drama-thriller based on the first book of the “Millennium Trilogy” written by the late Stieg Larsson which proved to be a world-wide hit. Hollywood is due to make its own adaptation of the book with David Fincher at its helm and it seems like they are just about ready to remake Swedish films after they’ve done the same to Asian films and everything else. (Hollywood is about to remake “Let The Right One In”) I bet you dollars to doughnuts that they will miss the point to all these Foreign films and books. The Book is set in Sweden and changes to the location of its setting usually never works out; but enough rant, I am here to review the Swedish version which I am almost certain will be superior to its American rendition.
Wrongfully found guilty of Libel, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) is a journalist who has been sentenced to serve a term in prison. He has 6 months (I am not sure how this works out in Swedish law) as a free man before he serves his sentence and now without a job, Mikael accepts the offer of a wealthy patriarch of the powerful Vanger family. Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) wants Mikael to find the truth of the presumed murder of a young 16-year old that occurred 40 years ago. While Mikael goes about his investigation, an investigator/researcher named Lisbeth Salanger (Noomi Rapace) tracks his movements while she deals with her psychological issues and an abusive “guardian” (probation officer in America). As Mikael goes deeper in his investigations, he gets unexpected help from Lisbeth in deducing some codes; who then agrees to aid Mikael in his mission. Working together, the two begin to forge an uneasy friendship, as they slowly find the dark secrets of the Vanger family and what they find is something more evil than they first bargained for…
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is about a few things: A 40 year-old unsolved murder. Nazis. A Financial scandal. A Reporter who has been dishonored. An Emotionally insensitive woman who hacks computers. A Family secret. That pretty much sums up the premise of this Swedish film. It is also important that the subtitle of the film’s title is “The Man Who Hates Women” in order to appreciate the common denominator that gives its elements a connection. The film has strong themes of violence against women both expressed onscreen and hinted at. There is quite a few scenes of sex and nudity with one unnerving rape scene. Most folks would turn away from this film since some scenes are quite graphic but it never feels tasteless or exploitive. It is a powerful ingredient that is important to the film’s narrative and to not explore and include this graphic element would lessen the impact of the film’s story.
The script does do a fantastic job in balancing out the story with the more reminiscent elements of the book with the direction. The film does miss some details about Mikael’s previous love affairs, dispenses some hints of financial subplot and gives a a somewhat rushed summary of the family history; director Oplev was able to allow the viewer to form a connection to the story. The movie begins with some background on our characters, and what leads to this investigation. There is a certain feeling of urgency in the proceedings, but it never feels rushed. The screenplay was able to make the mystery quite compelling. The structure of the film may be a little flawed at times but it never ceases to enthrall the viewer; it was a clever move that Oplev seemed to get the viewer involved in the investigation as the answer to the mystery is seen step-by-step so the viewer feels that they were with the two main protagonists’ as they go through the clues. I appreciate this approach even when the film tries to misdirect your attention, you feel that the twists and turns are credible and never comes from left field.
I guess what really made the movie successful is the fact that the lead actor was very effective in playing the role of Mikael. He had that personality that is strong and yet so cautious; that he relies on facts rather on guesses. Michael Nyqvist seemed to be real comfortable with the role and he was able to form a chemistry with this goth girl. The character of Lisbeth Salander is actually the “girl” in the film’s International title. This young woman in her twenties may well be one of the most intriguing and yet bizarre characters ever portrayed in film. Lisbeth has layers upon layers of personality that the screenplay breaks down piece by piece. Being a film, the director cannot bring us deep into her psyche so Oplev has to rely on her personality and the actress who portrays her. Much her development occurs in the form of small flashbacks and through expressions, she has her issues and they seemed to have made her stronger; this is one badass woman.
Director Oplev also makes use of some powerful visual images and relies on the subtle expression of emotion. This is a film where more is said through the eyes, the smile and the usual shrug; so make sure you pay attention to the sequences. Much of the film is about the investigation of the mystery; and Oplev has the skill to make the visuals stand out as a part of the film’s expression. Foreign films have the uncanny knack of expressing through simplicity and this film is no different. I guess if the movie had a flaw, its pace feels a little uneven at times, there were some scenes that felt a little stretched out.
“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is a film about secrets and revaltions; its slower pace is part of its strength. The film encourages the viewer to get to know its characters piece by piece as it takes you on a ride to solve this familial mystery. There are some character staples at times but I didn’t really feel bothered by them since the performances and the way it developed the story felt really gripping. Please see this Swedish Film before Hollywood massacres it with a U.S. movie adaptation. I guarantee; an Americanized version will (most likely) never work. No way can either Carey Mulligan or Kristen Stewart (Twilight) compare with the awesomeness that is Noomi Rapace. Noomi Rapace is indeed Lisbeth Salander.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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