The girl with the dragon tattoo – the original and the US-remake
The girl who played with fire
The girl who stirred the hornets’ nest
These are the films made to date from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I review them in one fell swoop because there is only one reason to see them if you wish to be diverted - and it is a very compelling one – the charismatic performance of Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in the three Swedish originals. More of that later.
There is another less palatable reason to watch the films. They are monuments to the grip that political correctness generally has on Sweden and the peculiar place that feminism occupies in Sweden and Scandinavia generally.
The plots, such as they are, revolve around the type of fantasies the politically correct relish: we have the remnants and descendants of a Swedish Nazi group, one of whom, Martin Vanger, engages in the rape and occult murder of women as his father did before him; the abusive and dishonest machinations of big business as represented by billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerström; paedophilia amongst the rich and powerful and a dash of security services mischief involving one-time Soviets agents, one of whom is Lisbeth’s father, Alexander Zalachenko. There is even a Frankenstein monster of sorts, a man who cannot feel pain (Ronald Niedermann Lisbeth’s half-brother) . In short, the storylines are verging on the absurd.
Amongst these fantastic scenarios Mikael Blomkvist, journalist and publisher at Millennium magazine, weaves his investigative way as he seeks to ruin Wennerstrom, solve the mystery of a missing woman belonging to the Nazi-tainted Vanger family and expose sex-trafficking of minors, much of this being done through conversations of excruciating exercises in political correctness with his fellow Millennium journos .
During the course of the three films Lisbeth is variously forced to provide fellatio, anally raped, shot and savagely beaten, with much of the mayhem being engineered by her father, half-brother and her state provided guardian – she is encumbered by the last because of her violent and disturbed past which has seen her spend much time in what in less politically correct times would be called lunatic asylums. Lisbeth in return engages in much violence and other criminality, almost all of it directed at men. This aspect of the films satisfies the feminist ideals of all men being potentially violent abusers of women and the ability of women to strike back against their abusers.
The male characters who are not wearing the feminist version of black hats are required to behave towards female characters with an insipid subordination. Mikael Blomkvist must be the most uninspiring male lead in films, an almost entirely non-action man. Even when he does eventually become involved in action he is the victim. Not so much an anti-hero but an anti-heroic.
There is also political correctness of an insidious nature. About halfway through The Girl with the Dragon tattoo a suspicion began to form, with The girl who played with fire the suspicion became a certainly and The Girl who stirred the hornet’s nest merely provided confirmation of the certainty: women perform the same role in Swedish films that blacks routinely perform in Hollywood productions. They are the formal authority figures, the lawyers, the judges, and , God help us, the leader of a police Swat team, are women.
In short, this is the hardcore feminist fantasy made flesh with men portrayed either as potential rapists and abusers of women generally (the title of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Swedish is Män som hatar kvinnor–literally–men who hate women) or timid, one dimensional wimps who not only bow down before the dictates of political correctness, but who have become feminised by decades of feminist propaganda and political intervention to enforce the mentality. All very interesting when one reflects on the author of the 2011 Norwegian killing spree Anders Breivik’s complaint about the feminised nature of Norwegian society. On the evidence of these films the same could be said of Sweden.
The films are saved by a single great performance. Orson Welles does this in Citizen Kane when even that fine actor Joseph Cotton is reduced to a cypher; Gangs of New York are saved by Daniel Day-Lewis’s Bill the Butcher; Drive is held together solely by Ryan Gosling’s startling talent for violence. Noomi Rapace does it with the character of Lisbeth Salmander , a young woman who is set apart, whether by a disturbed past or innate qualities, from other people. Her behaviour is autistic. She cannot readily connect with people or understand the normal rules of social engagement. At the same time she is highly intelligent and immensely resourceful. The consequence is that she combines heroic self-sufficiency with a terrible vulnerability . A man playing such a role probably would not be sympathetic but an attractive young woman is.
There is another quality Lisbeth has which is immensely magnetic. It is her will to action. There is something heroic about a character who meets circumstances head on and instead of dithering or running away from trouble simply responds with action. Lee Marvin as Walker in Point Blank and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill part I are other prime examples of such characters. Her determination and courage is in stark contrast to the vanilla quality of Blomkvist and his ilk. When she is removed from the action sequences (after being shot at the end of the second film), the consequence is that the final part of the trilogy is by far the weakest of the three. Lisbeth needs freedom to express herself.
The American remake of The girl with the dragon tattoo is in some ways better than the original, most notably the acting overall is much stronger – Stellen Skaarsgard is especially good as the serial killer Martin Vanger, mixing an overt affability with an underlying menace. Rooney Mara captures the self-contained distance and the will to action of the character well, but lacks Rapace’s vulnerability. That changes the mood of the film.
Recommended recent Films
Shame – something of Sidney Carton in the Michael Fassbinder role, a man of parts who is simply squandering his talent on an empty life.
Rampart – Woody Harrelson plays Dave Brown, a wondrously politically incorrect cop. Dirty Harry without the ideals.
A Dangerous Method – Worth seeing for Viggo Mortensen’s Freud and Keira Knightley’s sporting of one of the oddest accents ever to hit the screen – she is meant to be Russian, but could come from anywhere in the solar system for all the accent tells one of her origins.