Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

We caught up with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo the other day, and I liked it a good deal. I read the Stieg Larsson book a while ago--looking to find a reference to it in The Buddha Diaries, I note that I was reading it in Paris in April of last year--and found it gripping. I can't honestly recall how it ended, but I've heard the movie ended a bit differently. As I remember it, the book spent far more time on the theme of corporate corruption--the kind we have witnessed to our cost on Wall Street in the past couple of years--and threaded it in with the theme the movie chooses to focus on: that of sexual deviance. The book made no bones (excuse the pun!) about the parallels between the two, from the abuse of power to unbridled excess and greed.

I liked particularly that this film was so un-Hollywood. It includes, certainly, some sensational brutality, but such scenes are presented without the visual delight that Hollywood seems to take in violence; they are short, ugly, and accompanied often not by a melodramatic musical score but by elegant passages of classical music, which serve paradoxically to highlight their inhumanity. There are no "stars." Well, perhaps these faces are familiar to Scandinavian audiences, but to me there was not a single known visage in sight. Their appeal is not the easy good looks or beauty of the movie-star persona; these were faces with character, faces on which some human history was written.

And the acting is terrific, from the "girl" of the title, whose affect-less, punk exterior covers for a wounded, vulnerable core to the maligned, soon-to-be-imprisoned reporter who is hired for his investigatory skills by a wealthy industrialist, intent on discovering the murderer in the bosom of his family. The characters are allowed to build slowly, patiently, and indeed keep building and changing until the end. So, too, are the scenes. There's no rush into anything here. The camera allows the action of each scene to develop in its own time, rather than feeling the need to get to the point and move on to the next. It's an action movie with a leisurely pace, whose settings, both interior and exterior, allow time for the eye to explore their subdued natural beauty or their architectural and decorative detail.

My quibble? The plot, towards the end particularly, seems to lose some of its clarity and focus, straying off at times in the direction of the improbable and seeming to struggle to tie up every loose end. My own bias, too, would have been to make more of Larsson's prescience about the causes of the global financial debacle. I'm looking forward to reading the second in the ill-fated Stieg Larsson's series of three books, completed but unpublished before the author's untimely death. Ellie is reading it now, and is clearly hooked. My son, though, who is a hardened reader of the hard-boiled stuff, told me that he had to put it down before he finished it, because it was so brutal. I'll let you know what I think when I inherit the book from Ellie. But she's a slow reader.

1 comment:

Jean said...

Many of your reactions to the film are similar to mine. This pleases me greatly because most of my friends have been much less keen on it than I was - I think probably because they hadn't read the book. While I was thrilled that it remained so faithful to the novel (I don't think the ending is different), which I loved, there is certainly then a problem that the novel is so rambling and complex and a lot of things have to be telescoped in the film, lessening their impact and perhaps sometimes making them difficult to follow.