The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Swedish)
Directed By Niels Arden Oplev
Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube
Written by Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg as an Adpatation of the original novel written by Stieg Larss0n
As someone who witnessed the gang rape of a girl, named Lisbeth, when a young man of 15, Stieg Larsson was forever tortured by the thought that he did nothing to help her. Later, after having lived many years as a journalist, activist and science fiction fan, Stieg began a personal journey in writing 3 books he would never publish, along with the outline for several more. The first of these books featured a somewhat passive investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist whose ambitions of bringing down crooked capitalists leads him into trouble, and a secretive woman Lisbeth Salander who works the underground.
Starting off by losing a case of libel, Mikael (Nyqvist) is going to be sentenced to jail. Lisbeth, who has spied on Mikael for months, knows that he was framed. She tells this to those who hired her to get the goods on him. This is good enough for them to contact Mikael on Christmas at his sister’s house, and ask for his help. Henrik Vanger, a retired industrialist, hires him to find out who killed his niece Harriet more than 30 years earlier, when she vanished after a family reunion.
At the same time, we discover that Lisbeth, 24 years old, is beholden to a probationary guardianship supervised by someone who is taking advantage of her in the most grotesque and horrific fashion. She finds a way to navigate past this obstacle and soon has resumed watching Mikael even though she is no longer being paid to do so, discovers that she can help him, and tries to do so anonymously. Mikael is able to trace back to her and enlists her help.
From this point, it becomes a thriller of epic proportions. Finding corruption, religious perversion, sadistic abuse of women and Nazism just below the surface of society, Mikael and Lisbeth are imperiled, but
compelled to move forward. The way the mystery unfolds is fascinating and haunting. What they find is somewhat predictable, but satisfying, nonetheless.
Larsson’s obsession with primal violence towards women by sophisticated men is obvious, and it is also plain to see that Lisbeth is his vehicle towards his own redemption. His Lisbeth can never be happy, just as his most horrific image of her will never be, but she wins out over these sadistic, violent, and ultimately weak men. The one man she almost trusts, Mikael, is a passive seeker of truth, much, it would seem, as Larsson pictures himself. All of their interactions have him as the seeker, but never the instigator.
The performances are exquisite throughout. Rapace shows a woman’s never-ending fight against the damage she has and continues to suffer at the hands of men. Her tattoo and piercings are a kind of scarlet letter for doomed souls. They tell people to “stay away or feel the pain I feel.” With every step, Rapace exhibits menace and vulnerability.
Nyqvist, by contrast, shows the effect of a man looking in the face of doom and yawning. He has truth on his side, and with that, no jail cell can hold him. Interestingly, he seems to float through the film, when he is not tethered to the weight exhibited by Lisbeth. Even then, he does not try to assume he knows what she’s been through, he just offers love. It is one of the most assured performances I have seen by a male actor since Burt Lancaster.
Of the supporting actors, by far the most appealing is from Sven-Bertil Taube’s Henrik Vanger. Yet again, a man who only loves, not capable of violence, and is just obsessed to know what monster in his family tore his soul apart by taking away his favorite niece.
Given that Larsson died before the world at large became aware of his stories, it is nearly impossible to know what satisfaction he got from the books he wrote. If they turn enough men from weak attackers of women towards the ability of reason and love exhibited by his protagonist, Mikael, there may never be a need for another character like Lisbeth, riveting as she is.
(****1/2 out of *****)