The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – in the garden of Sweden
Prior to his untimely death in 2004, Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson wrote a trio of novels collectively known as the Millennium Trilogy. Written in his native Swedish tongue, the stories have proved a critical and commercial success, and all three have already been turned into Swedish language movies.
This month sees the DVD rental release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, originally titled Män Som Hatar Kvinnor or Men Who Hate Women. The film, much like its source material, has enjoyed mass acclaim from pretty much everyone, and deservedly so.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo introduces the trilogy’s two main protagonists; firstly Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged investigative journalist writing for the magazine Millennium. His attempts to uncover the corrupt nature of Swedish billionaire and industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström have gone awry and resulted in a libel case against him. He will have to serve three months in prison, but has a few months before he must face his sentence.
The title character and movie heroine is Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-something with prior issues relating to behaviour and mental stability, but a brilliant researcher. She has been hired by ultra-rich Henrik Vanger of the Vanger Group in order to check the legitimacy and authenticity of Mikael Blomkvist’s reputation as a skilled investigator.
Satisfied with Mikael’s credentials, Vanger meets with Blomkvist and requests that he investigate the disappearance of his foster child Harriet, who has been missing for 40 years and presumed dead. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are more than suspicious, and Henrik suspects foul play from none other than a member of his own twisted, money-hungry family.
The story steadily builds the mystery, as dark and utterly terrifying secrets begin to unfold revealing the truly shocking nature of Harriet’s disappearance. Blomkvist and Lisbeth join forces, delving deep into a case that has gathered dust and been left for dead; their inquisitive dispositions are only fuelled by the unseen forces that attempt to stop them.
It is a rarity; a film that can be classed as flawless. Of course this is subjective, but even examining the film after the experience has settled, it is truly testing to find any negative criticism. To begin with, Noomi Rapace’s performance as the tattooed girl is at once invigorating, exhilarating, powerful, vengeful, tortured and loving. Her perfectly paced portrayal of a girl who thrives on independence, but must report to a guardian due to her difficult history, is a wonder to behold.
It should be noted that some early parts of the film involve some extreme sexual violence against Lisbeth, and it is very difficult to watch. However, it is an integral part of the story; her responses to such situations play a key part in providing character depth and a representation of the things that this girl can achieve when pushed by some of the vile creatures that walk this earth and call themselves human.
Michael Nyqvist plays middle-aged jail-bound Mikael Blomkvist, and although he has to work hard to keep up with the striking performance from Rapace, he succeeds by giving us a likeable and genuine character, concerned with the corruptibility of men in a capitalist society. He is enjoyable to watch, and his wonderful scenes with Lisbeth are touching and lighten the tone. Their innocent and unspoken relationship is beautiful, especially given the girl’s traumatic history and issues with affection.
The story itself is utterly riveting; a crime thriller that unfolds at an excellent pace, with a careful balance of questions and answers, and a brilliant and thrilling conclusion that puts many Hollywood endings to shame. The mystery becomes increasingly engrossing, and the little clues and minor discoveries are as intriguing as they are satisfying.
Never underestimate the power of a subtle director; Niels Arden Oplev allows the film to progress naturally without making his presence as filmmaker known to the audience. The cinematography of the middle-of-nowhere Swedish island which provides the film’s main setting is beautiful, embodying the secluded nature of the characters and their potentially futile plight.
The film’s score serves to accentuate some key moments and never becomes over-bearing, acting as a subtle catalyst to the many thrilling beats that take place over the 2 hour-plus runtime which effortlessly breezes by.
Needless to say, the imminent arrival of the trilogy’s other entries will be greeted with boundless enthusiasm. The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest will continue the investigative adventures of Mikael and Lisbeth, and if The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.
This film is brilliant in all the ways a film could be; it is exciting, harsh, challenging, breathtaking, beautiful, terrifying, devastating and genuinely gripping.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will remain heavily emblazoned, etched and marked on your mind for years to come.