In my Melancholia review I stated that I have a pathological inability to give up on a film. However, I do have to admit that I gave up on a movie a few months ago. The film was The Girl Who Played With Fire. I don’t know why, but it almost put me in a coma and I had to stop halfway through. I never finished it.
Which is a shame because I really enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It certainly wasn’t a flawless film - the direction lacked imagination and it looked like it had been filmed for TV - but it was an enjoyable diversion. I guess I began to switch off once we got into the silliness of Lisbeth’s family tree.
As you’d expect, the Hollywood remake of Stieg Larsson’s novel is bigger, louder and glossier. But is it better? I would say in almost every regard, yes. The acting and the directing are far superior and Fincher’s version has far more tension.
A surprising element of watching the remake is realising how little of the original I remembered. I couldn’t even remember who the killer was, which is a pretty damning indictment of how little the original film stayed with me. Despite the heaviness of the violence, it turned out to be a pretty lightweight exercise.
So here comes Fincher to give the story the treatment it deserves. His film has far more weight and promises not to fade from the memory like a wisp.
The key scene for me is the torture of Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). I haven’t been that on edge for a while. Sure I knew he wasn’t going to die and yes I knew Lisbeth was going to turn up at the last second to save his life, but I still ended up getting an adrenaline rush. And unusually for me - I usually find it surprisingly easy to detach myself from moments of horror - I felt anxious when Blomkvist’s tormentor puts a plastic bag over his head. I’ve always found the very notion of suffocation horrific and Fincher prolongs the agony. And then with some POV shots, he allows you to step into Blomkvist’s shoes. It’s a wonderfully, horrifically powerful scene, which is made even more disturbing by the use of an Enya song. ‘Just kill me already! I can’t take any more of that pseudo-Celtic bollocks!’
Just as the scene is reaching breaking point, Lisbeth turns up and saves the day with a golf club. She smashes the man’s face and then chases him on her motorbike until he crashes his car and burns to death. Wait a minute, who’s James Bond here?
Of course Lisbeth is a pure male fantasy. A hot goth girl with a fantastic body and cool tattoos who’s as capable with a taser as she is with a laptop, who will hop on your penis for sweaty sex, save your life at the last moment, tenderly ask you permission to kill your tormentor, destroy your other enemy by embezzling billions of dollars by dressing up as an icy blonde and then spend some of the cash buying you an awesomely rad leather jacket. Oh, and she also likes girl on girl action. Who but a man could conceive of such a creation?
But even though she stretches every thread of credibility, Lisbeth is a fantastic heroine. Strong, resourceful and handy with a dildo, she’s kind of James Bond meets Batman meets Siouxsie Sioux meets Rain Man. Or put another way, she’s kind of a goth Sherlock Holmes. If Sherlock Holmes was a bisexual girl and wanted to relentlessly plug Apple products.
At the beginning of the film, we find out that Lisbeth has been declared mentally incompetent by the State and has been appointed a legal guardian. In a twist that would make Republican heads explode and have them bemoaning the evils of socialism, Lisbeth’s government appointed guardian turns out to be a colossal pervert. In return for favourable reports and continued wellfare checks, he expects sweaty blow-jobs and brutal assfuckings. Yeah, and you capitalists think that getting government assistance doesn’t have any strings attached!
For Lisbeth’s rapist, though, there’s a worthy punishment. Unbeknownst to him, Lisbeth videoed one of the rapes. And then just so he can know what it feels like, she tasers him, ties him up and rams a huge dildo up his hairy arse. She even kicks it a couple of times to make it penetrate him even deeper. What a girl! And then just as a little cherry on top of this sad, sweaty, bloody, quivering, sobbing man cake, Lisbeth tattoos his chest, telling everyone that he’s a rapist pig. Again this is borderline ridiculous but it works a treat.
What’s fairly surprising about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that it takes a while for our lead characters to team up. At first Lisbeth is busy with her perverted Benny Andersson look-a-like guardian and Blomkvist is investigating a murder for a wealthy businessman. The unsolved murder of the businessman’s grandniece occurred decades ago, but it still consumes the old man.
Of course the nuts and bolts of the murder investigation are probably the least interesting aspect of the film. When Blomkvist and Lisbeth do finally team up there’s a lot of staring at strategically placed Apple products and lots of rooting through files and photos. It’s perfectly entertaining but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen a million times before.
Much more fun is the development of the relationship between Blomkvist and Lisbeth. At first it seems like it’s going to be a mentor/tutor kind of relationship. But then in one scene Lisbeth makes a move on Blomkvist and they become lovers. Again this twist flirts with the ridiculous but like so much of the film it works effortlessly. Maybe I’m more accepting of how out of the blue everything happens because they’re supposed to be Swedish? Is it wrong of me to think of them either as relentless bed-hoppers, suicide victims or maniac chefs? ‘I’m a hurreeble-a xenuphube-a. Cheeckee in a besket!’
I don’t even care that Daniel Craig doesn’t attempt a Swedish accent. Frankly, I’d rather someone not try than try an accent and fail miserably.
Given the familiar elements of the murder mystery, the key hook for me was whether Lisbeth and Blomkvist would end up together. They make a great team and Craig and Rooney Mara have excellent chemistry. And given the tenderness that is opened up in Lisbeth by her love for Blomkvist, I had a surprising emotional investment in the characters (maybe this is why the torture scene is so tense). So I couldn’t help but want to slap Craig’s character when he decides to go off with his previous lover and business partner (played by Robin Wright Penn). Seriously? Between a blonde who has wrinkles that makes it look like she has a vagina on her neck and a girl who killed the guy who was torturing you, who managed to embezzle billions of dollars without any effort and who has finally opened herself up and bought you a killer leather jacket, you chose the blonde with a vagina neck! Well done Blomkvist, well done!
‘Ve-a cume-a frum zee lund ooff zee ice-a und snoo,
Frum zee meednight soon vhere-a zee hut spreengs floo
Zee hemmer ooff zee guds veell dreefe-a oooor sheeps tu noo lunds,
Tu feeght zee hurde-a, seenging und cryeeng: Felhella, I em cumeeng!’