Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Lowdown: The girl and the journalist from the previous episode find themselves personally involved in a human trafficking affair.
Watching the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo whet our appetites. We wanted more of that original version (and not just because the Americans only provided us with the first episode thus far). Thus we went for the second episode of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, in the Swedish manifestation starring Noomi Rapace (the girl) and Michael Nyqvist (the journalist). It seems as if this particular trilogy was produced as a TV mini series that was later released as a movie; this time around, we chose to watch the longer mini series version, made of two 90 minutes episodes. It appears the movie version is a bit less than an hour shorter.
The Girl Who Played with Fire portrays a very complex array of human actors who (surprise!) happen to all be connected to one another. Journalist Michael, now back to his normal life, gets involved in human trafficking investigations held by a fellow investigative journalist his magazine engages with. In parallel, our tattooed girl Lisbeth, now a millionaire, comes back to Stockholm and buys herself a beautiful apartment. She doesn't stop there: she meets the guy who raped her in the previous movie and threatens him with his own gun, a gun that is later found to have been used to commit a murder related to the same human trafficking affair that Michael is investigating. With Lisbeth's prints on the gun, she becomes the prime suspect and a public figure through "wanted" police ads.
Michael does not believe Lisbeth to be the killer and starts investigating the matter. Lisbeth does her own hacking to investigate the matter, too. It does not take long before paths get crossed and the personal nature of the murder mystery at hand is revealed.
The story behind The Girl Who Played with Fire is quite intriguing. However, it is so complex and convoluted that, while every step of the puzzle seems to make sense, it gets quite hard to follow. I enjoyed watching this one, but do not ask me to explain all the various plot twists. Especially not after three hours of constant twists.
Instead, take this one as an adults' version of The Da Vinci Code. By adult, I mean that this one seems much more authentic and serious by virtue of it putting its emphasis on the human side of things rather than the occult. And yes, I also imply that The Girl Who Played with Fire is much more explicit, particularly in its portrayal of sex. Forget American political correctness when you watch this Swedish version.
It's not only political incorrectness that differentiates The Girl Who Played with Fire from similar American productions. I think it's more than the longish duration of this one, but the characters here - even the more minor ones - get properly developed. Forget the stereotypical affair that passes for characterisation in most Hollywood productions! Even the relatively poor Swedish production values help, giving The Girl Who Played with Fire an aura of genuine authenticity that is often missing from the slick and artificial American productions (yes, even from the better ones like the aforementioned David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Three hours later, I was deep into this sad portrayal of a world where old men exploit young women. Similarities to Australian politics aside, I have to admit there is more than just a hint of reality in this observation. The Girl Who Played with Fire does not hesitate to point fingers at some of society's worse aspects. I hope it is this finger pointing that earned the books the popularity they have, but somehow I suspect it's more to do with the sex. Regardless, I will admit to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience,  an experience that left me looking forward to the third and final part of the trilogy.
Overall: Another ace in the sleeve of "foreign" cinema. 4 out of 5 crabs.

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