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Film Review – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Venue: Cine 3, Ster-Kinekor Maerua Mall
Film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Director: David Finscher
Screenplay: Steve Zaillian
Players: Daniel Craig; Rooney Mara, Robin Wright; Christopher Plummer; Stellan Skaarsgard; Joely Richardson
Genre: thriller; crime; action
Rating ****

I hope that ‘ennui’ with Stieg Larsen does not prevent anyone from seeing this film. I know that we have all guzzled up the novels (without putting them down) and most avid Larsen fans have seen the trilogy as filmed by the Swedes; now we have the Hollywood version – which I venture to say surpasses expectations.
Hollywood is not just about gloss: it also harbours fine actors, polished screenwriters who have gone beyond Robert McGee’s advice about constructing a screenplay, fine attention to detail with regard to moody sets, and imaginative cinematography. All these components are much in evidence in this film.
It is difficult to avoid comparisons with the Swedish version. Firstly, much as I appreciate Noomi Rapace’s acting, she was too androgynous for me, too masculine and not sufficiently finely boned. Her interpretation of Lizbeth Salander involved stubborn and mutinous silences (with clenched jaw) as a starting point. Rooney Mara, with delicate facial features and a skinny torso, is more in line with my impressions of the character while I was reading the book. Mara’s interpretation of Lizbeth is more subtle and varied, too: Lizbeth deliberately sabotages potential prettiness with grungy make-up,  facial metal work, and spiky hair. Mara’s Lizbeth humanises softly and nicely during the research work with Blomquist.
Craig was initially wooden as Blomquist.  There was no indication of an intellectual investigative journalist, whose special craft was working with words. Initially, Craig was monosyllabic and detached for someone on the point of financial and professional ruin. Minor characters were brought to life: Plummer as Hendrik Vanger was a balanced combination of business acumen and humane concern with family; Wright was perfect as Erika, the Editor of Millenium – blonde, pert, competent and possessive. Skarsgard as Martin Vanger was also perfect, with a genial attitude, a kindly demeanour, and a concern to assist Blomquist with his investigations, and Joely Richardson seemed so clean and pure as Harriet Vanger. I forgive the director for the one corruption of the plot by changing the background information to Harriet’s disappearance.
Two very good minor characters were Frode, the Vanger lawyer (Berkoff), and the lawyer to whose authority Salander is transferred. The lawyer, a sexual pervert and a manipulative bully, is more subtly defined in this version: he is a man driven by lust and impulse but also capable of guilt and remorse.
The film, in all other respects, sticks faithfully to the novel, and the screenwriter manages to incorporate far more plot detail than the Swedish version. The plot, by now, is well known: the interest is not in the racy sequence of events but in the dark portrayal of Swedish society, superficially organised and enlightened, but with a dark undercurrent of sexual abuse and repression.
Cinematography could be described as ‘elegant’. The original shots work intelligently to enhance mood and understanding, rather than innovation for its own sake.
It now remains to be seen whether Hollywood embarks as successfully on the other two novels in the trilogy. I felt that the Swedish trilogy deteriorated and the acting actually became more and more inept; perhaps this may be ascribed to the fact that production of all three was a fairly rushed affair.
Unfortunately, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has arrived with a clutch of good Christmas film fare but I do strongly advise an overdose on the good stuff before we revert to the mindless action films and the comedies which specialise in toilet humour. ‘The man who hires the detective should be kept on the suspects list,’ acknowledges a member of the Vanger family and Hendrik Vanger claims that ‘The enemies of my friends are my enemies.’ The bridge to the mainland is filmed again and again, as a connection, perhaps even a lifeline, between dark forces within a dysfunctional family and urban Sweden, where intelligent people work relentlessly to expose corruption, venality, sexual perversion – and truth.

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