Monday, February 13, 2012

Stieg Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

"We all have urges; mine just require more towels."

It's darn disgusting, if you think about it, but it came from a sick guys mouth. Stieg Larsson was all his life fighting against  pro-nazis and other right-wing extremism groups, but found it relaxing to depict them with bleak colours in his books; characters that harm quite a bunch of people before they are diminished to ashes. This one had a single craving: to torture (and more) young women, while continuing to be a well-respected part of the community.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -now a major film- as the American book cover puts it, is probably known to those who have never stepped into a bookstore in their lives, only because of David Fincher's film, but I guess that's not the majority. I sincerely hope that you out there know and/or have read the Millennium Trilogy, where Stieg Larsson's soul is reposing.  Sentimentalism aside, the three books are just well-written crime novels, of course, but there's a hidden power in them, a young, -may I call it feminist?- power: it's called  Lisbeth Salander. Even if her cruel techniques in dealing  with people, especially those who insult or violate her, seem far fetched, I certainly enjoyed them; I even publicly  admit I would do the same if I ever confronted similar situations and if I had the guts (which I probably don't).

Not sure if I want to deal with Fincher's film here, which I find captivating, or with the book or rather with the phenomenon itself. When The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hit the bookstores in the UK on February 2008 and became an instant best-seller, Stieg had been away from the world as we know it four years already,  after a heart-attack induced by his climbing up seven floors, because the lift was out of order (!). Stieg was a Swedish journalist, who was certainly less famous than his alter-ego Mikael Blomkvist; he was dedicated to report and fight against extremist groups, which resulted in death threats and  consequently his and his companion's living with cover identity, to avoid further complications. It seems that Stieg had quite an intriguing life himself, and certain traumatic memories he could not get over. For instance, the memory of a gang rape of a girl "marked him for life" and left him with a feeling of failure for not being able to help the girl, a feeling  that gave birth to themes of sexual violence against women and to the empowered, yet fragile young woman Lisbeth Salander, as the Exterminating Angel for Men who Hate Women -the original Swedish title of  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The film was first produced in the Swedish language, before catching the interest of Hollywood studios. Salander's character is depicted by an older and less fragile-looking Noomi Rapace in that one; Rapace is actually closer to a dangerous woman's profile than Rooney Mara's ethereal-goth but utterly breakable construction of Lisbeth. The latter is preferred by self-centered manly men of today, hence the Oscar nomination. I am not overlooking Rooney's great performance, just pointing out the exaggerated fragility that the casting director and Fincher were going for. Another thing that actually hit me was the paradox in the heart of Lisbeth's character: she comes with the burden of a hard childhood, which makes her difficult with people, a big fat "Other", unable to built relationships and connect with people, who are more or less deceitful through her eyes. With her piercings, tattoos, outfit, though, she looks like a punk or probably like an updated version of a neo-nazi, a type of person that the author was trying to eliminate, and not a women's saviour. I won't go into more detailed analysis here, but Salander's depiction, background and motives are highly conflicting -which doesn't mean that I don't like the character or the film, I love both. A last one, I don't know what to make of Lisbeth's influence by Astrid Lindgren's character Pippi Longstocking, but it's always interesting to track influences, indeed.

Just a word or two for the film: Daniel Kraig was ok, but I really don't understand why a James Bond was cast as this sensitive character, it's an downright commercial choice. It was good to see a sweet-as-it-goes  Christopher Plummer as the loving Grandpa and Stellan Skarsgard as the bad guy, they are both great actors. It was also good to see Robin Wright without the Penn as Lisbeth's (love) rival. In general, this movie had the production values one expects from a Hollywood studio, the clever direction one expects from Fincher, a nicely re-written plot and a bitter end. We have some time to read the books before the next instalment comes out, in a year's time.

Enjoy the trailer - Fincher's version:

And the Swedish film trailer by Niels Arden Oplev:


Anonymous said...

One of the best movies I've ever seen. Made me cry and think once again that love is only an illusion. Such a shame for a girl like this, to actually love once, only to realize that was fooling herself..

ludo said...

I did read the Millenium trilogy and literally loved it! Finished the three book in a month ! (of course there was a week in Salt Lake City and a return 12h flight - i had time to kill...)
Movie was good although I also preferred Noomi Rapace as Salander. But Flincher version is a bit more dynamic than the Sweedish one.
I also liked the version Immigrant Song even though I'm usually against Led Zeppelin reprise :-p

estelle said...

@ludo I will also need holidays to read the trilogy ;-)
@anonymous BTW, Anonymous now has a very revolutionary/terrorist odour :P Yes, a pity that Lisbeth fell for the wrong one, but she will grow up. We all did.

Anonymous said...

Seriously,though like Libeth I too bare the Dragon's Tatoo,How Ironic,Seriously....M.C.D in W\DC.