Monday, December 26, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy

Noomi Rapace, her biopic, and as Lisbeth
Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Denmark - Sweden - Germany - Norway
Niels Arden Oplev, 2009 (7.8*)
I’m reviewing these together because after you’ve either read the novels or seen the trilogy, you realize it’s just one long story about the heroine, not three distinctly different stories.

Actress Noomi Rapace made a star of herself and created an indelible screen image in punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, the subject of this crime trilogy from the famous novels by Stieg Larsson. I haven’t read the novels, but like most transcriptions to screen, you lose a lot because you’re getting a lot of other artists to interpret a solo work from the mind of one person, and the medium is also being transformed from one of linguistics and the mind’s imagination to a series of images filtered through the minds of others – the screenwriters, the cinematographers, the editors, and the director. All form a collaberative committee on a film, overseen by the director’s vision, which often changes during the process.

Some may find these films a bit too explicit, they show a woman who’s the victim of abuse, and it’s not for the squeamish. Some found this exploitive, others found it a frank depiction of the misygony in society, and how women in general are the victims of sex crimes perpetrated by sadistic men – unfortunately there’s never a shortage of these at any time in history. For me, I found the films to be more about a woman empowering herself by using her brains and street smarts to stand her own ground. In many regards, I found these films similar to the theme of the powerful French film Chaos (2001), from director Coline Serreau, which I’ve called “the ultimate women’s power film”, and one which had me standing and applauding at the end.

The series begins with a man convinced a relative was murdered and he employs a disgraced journalist, expertly played by Michael Nyqvist, and a criminal computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, to help him unravel the mystery of some grisly murders in the distant past.

The first film won 13 awards (and Rapace won three for actress), including a BAFTA for films not in English (the equivalent of foreign language film at the Oscars). Rated 7.7 at IMDB, and 76 from Metacritics – that’s probably about right, though the cinematography and music are first rate, and actually make each film better. Some think it’s a bit long at 155 minutes, and there’s a longer 180 minute version from Sweden.

The Girl Who Played With Fire
Daniel Aldredsen, 2009 (7.2*)
The second in the series begins to unravel the mystery of Lisbeth Salander’s life. Her father may have been a Soviet agent, that’s part of the mystery. Journalist Blomkvyst of Millenium magazine (Nyqvist), who exposes the corrupton of the establishment, is investigating sex trafficking in Sweden, and the two themselves become the targets of the powerful in return

This film has more action, and is also compelling but is really setting you up for the concluding film, which provides closure to the entire series.

This film is not as compelling as the other two, and was only rated 6.9 at IMDB (fan votes), and 66 at Metacritics. This film and the third didn’t win any awards, and only garnered five nominations between them.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Daniel Alfredson, 2009 (8.0*)
[Rated 7.0 at IMBD and 60 at Metacritics]

This film was the most riveting of the three for me, perhaps because it was the least violent. Without giving anything away, it becomes a battle of wits between two viewpoints – to put it in normal cinema jargon, the good guys and the bad guys, but using their minds rather than weapons or martial arts.

However, depending on how you feel about certain issues, these sides may appear the opposite to other people. It’s almost like politics - if we agree with a rebel, they’re freedom fighters; if we disagree, they’re terrorists. That's why we have a legal system, at least for civilians.

We see the entire mystery unfold as the journalist uncovers the clues himself. Another long film at 147 minutes, it still didn’t seem overlong; it’s a complex psychological story that demands thorough examination and revelation. The third film brought closure to the story, and in an intelligent, credible manner. Those who stick with the entire trilogy should feel justified in the end.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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