Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

2009’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is the first of two recent film adaptations of the best selling novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. It centres on the hunt for answers after a young girl was murdered in 1966. Writer Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has recently been found guilty of libel and is due to be spending a few months in prison. On behalf of Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) a young investigator called Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) does some background research on Blomkvist and Vanger asks him to help solve the mystery surrounding his niece’s disappearance forty years ago. Blomkvist accepts and travels to the island upon which many of the Vanger family are based and where the missing girl, Harriet was last seen. As Blomkvist begins to gather clues and evidence, Salander continues to hack into his computer and becomes interested in both him and the case. Eventually she cracks a clue and sends her findings to Blomkvist who finds her and persuades her to help him. She is at first reluctant but agrees. Together the two try to uncover the mystery and end up uncovering much more than they ever expected to or even wanted to.

Having now seen the film I can now totally understand why the novel has gained such a large following and has sold as many copies as it has (53 million for the trilogy combined). The plot is fascinating and intriguing and is delivered at a steady pace. It successfully feeds just enough information to keep you interested but not enough to allow you to have it all figured out too early. It is quite literally a thrilling Thriller.

Nasty man
Many of the themes of the film are quite dark and have had to be tackled delicately. One of the main themes is violence by men, towards women and indeed the original Swedish title is Men who hate women. There are a few grizzly and quite frankly horrific scenes, one of which has stayed with me the day after seeing it. The films lead female, Lisbeth Salander has undergone some quite horrific acts at the hands of men, many of which are played out during the film and this gives us an understanding as to why she has turned into the woman she has. She is very distanced, especially around men. She is cold and introverted and has difficulty connecting with people. She is sexually ambiguous and shows great hostility towards men who do women harm as a result of her traumatic childhood. All of these traits are performed wonderfully by Noomi Rapace who is simply sublime as Salander. The male lead Mikael Blomkvist is an intelligent and dedicated investigative journalist and Michael Nyqvist plays him well. He is very believable but his performance is completely overshadowed by that of Noomi Rapace.

Another theme which has a place in Sweden is Nazism. This is something that is still quite a contentious subject in the country as many Swedes joined their Aryan cousins, the Germans during World War II. I was shocked to discover in a recent book on the subject that towards the end of the War there were many Swedes, Norwegian and even French volunteers fighting in the streets of Berlin when most of the German’s had been killed or had surrendered. This murky past is explored in the film and becomes a major part of the deduction the two leads undertake.   

The film kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Salander is a compelling heroine who I was rooting for in every scene is which she was able to enact some revenge on those who had wronged her. Towards the end as all the loose ends had been tied up, I felt that the film carried on for two long but this was obviously to set the story up for the sequel. I also felt that at 152 minutes it was on the long side but having said that there is little I’d want to take out. In regards to the graphic sexual violence, although disturbing I thought that it was necessary in order to show the audience what Salander has had to go through. The film is a great thriller which features a gripping and horrific story and some fantastic acting from Noomi Rapace who deserves all of the nominations and awards that she won for the role.  



  1. Nice review. I'm curious at what you thought of David Fincher's version, and Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth. I also highly recomend the extented versions of these movies. You can watch them on netflix.

    1. I haven't seen the US version yet, its on our LoveFilm list. I've heard its very good but I get quite annoyed about English language remakes of great Asian and European films. I wish people would just watch them in their original form, they are better 99% of the time.

  2. Great review of a fantastic film. I saw the film initially before I had ready the book so I had no idea that it was so brutal. I now have the box set of all three so I really must watch them again.

    1. I haven't read the book and had to wait for my GF to finish it before we watched it. Same with the 2nd and 3rd so I'm not going to get to see them for a long time!