Monday, 30 April 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lowdown: A journalist’s investigation of an old mystery uncovers old secrets and hidden cravings.
A few years ago it felt as if half the people around me on the trains are reading one of the Stieg Larsson crime books series, the Millennium Series, the trilogy that starts with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was made curios, but my reading priorities took me elsewhere. Until, that is, SBS recently aired the 2009 Swedish movie version (an Americanized version was released during 2011). Finally, the time has come for me to satisfy my curiosity and learn whether The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is yet another The Da Vinci Code: a book that succeeds in the popular market by appealing to the public’s insatiable demand for blood, sex and the occult.
The story starts with us learning that Michael (Michael Nyqvist), a seemingly hard working and honest journalist, has just lost his libel trial with this industrial tycoon and is therefore about to be sent to jail. The real life case of The Pirate Bay had already taught me that those sentenced to jail at Sweden are often “invited” to start their journey months after their trial. That turned out to be the case with our Michael, who now has some six months to burn before going to jail and whose newspaper doesn’t want him anymore because of the trouble he brings.
An old millionaire comes to his aid with a job offer, asking Michael to use his skills and vacant time to help solve a decades old mystery concerning the disappearance of his favorite niece from the island on which the family resides. Between ties with the Nazis, eccentricities and greed there are plenty of potential leads within the wealthy family. Michael, however, receives help from an unexpected source: a mysterious girl (with a dragon tattoo, of course) that hacked into his computer during his trial and is still around. That girl has some secrets of her own, which we will be learning about gradually as Michael learns some grotesque truths about the family he's investigating.
My description does The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo injustice; it is hard to convey what this film is about without blooping. Suffice to say this one is a film that makes the most of people's sadistic tendencies. A film that has no problems playing with extreme sex and Nazism at the same time. As can be expected, the result is thrilling; yet I could not avoid feeling toyed with. It did not feel like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was contributing much to my learning of the ways of this world; it just felt like the filmmakers were trying to shock me for the sake of shocking me.
Anecdote: The film's heroes are true Apple fans, using Macs wherever they go. However, as we can see, these Macs are being hacked left and right. I wonder whether Apple is happy with the publicity its computers received by the film, or whether it is unhappy with the perception its computers are so easily hacked.
Notable scene:
SBS’ viewers alert prior to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo warned us of “a sex scene”. There were some sex scenes in the film, and they were definitely plural. Most importantly, the sex scene everyone will remember is not a sex scene at all but rather a rape scene (if you insist I will tell you The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actually contains two rape scenes). And that rape scene is pretty visceral.
This scene has to light a few bulbs when trying to explain the success Stieg Larsson’s books have had with the public. We, us, society is growing more fond of the extremes. I do have to raise the question of whether exposure to such extreme events, rendered so realistically, has a sanitizing effect on us? Would we grow indifferent to the stuff that’s portrayed in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo if more and more media went as far?
Overall: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more than a bit like The Da Vinci Code, extreme yet rather empty. It’s not as superficial, though, and it is definitely a solid thriller. 3.5 out of 5 stars probably do some injustice to this Silence of the Lambs lookalike.

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