Every year, there seems to be a movie that makes its
way from overseas as an absolutely amazing piece of work.
This year, that movie is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s based on a book (the first in a trilogy) by late Swedish writer Steig Larsson. Larsson was the second bestselling author in the world in 2008 because of his trilogy, though he died of a heart attack in 2004.
The movie was released in early 2009 in Scandinavia but has just made its way to Canada. It’s a subtitled mystery-thriller that expands the typical genre with fascinating characters and a very original ending.
The deepest character is the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, amazingly played by Noomi Rapace. She’s harsh yet alluring, and has a shadowed past that plays itself out in all of her convoluted present-day decisions — but she’s also Sweden’s best computer hacker. She teams up with Sweden’s most prolific journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, to uncover the 40-year-old suspected murder of a young girl. As the story unfurls, they have to fight for their lives after they discover a long trace of ritualistic, sexist murders over the course of decades. In Swedish, the story was originally titled Men Who Hate Women.
Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, and it won “Best Narrative Feature” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival earlier this year. Rapace also picked up “Best Actress” awards and nominations at many smaller festivals.
One of the plot’s strengths is its logic. No details are too overwhelming or obscure, forcing you to give the film the benefit of the doubt so you can move on from confusion. Another is the story of partly unrequited, partly confused love that develops between Blomkvist and Salander as she attempts to deal with his kindheartedness after a life spent being abused by men.
Both characters, but especially Salander, are quite cunning and it serves them well — the audience’s satisfaction with the results, albeit unexpected ones, is guaranteed. You will definitely be left wanting the rest of the movie trilogy, which has come out in Sweden but not yet in Canada.
It just should be kept in mind that this movie deals with very adult issues. And being from overseas, it doesn’t have the Hollywood-glazed sensitivity that those films are sometimes subject to. There are graphic scenes of assault and sexual violence. There is nudity, although none of it is particularly erotic.
The movie will be featured by Hollywood in 2012, with Brad Pitt rumoured to play Blomkvist.
But as Ebert says, “That remake may turn out to be a good film, but if I were you I'd be sure to watch this version… I can't think of an American actress who could play Lisbeth.”•
Photos courtesy of Alliance Films