SXSW FILM 2010
By Dirk Sonniksen | March 14, 2010
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer(s): Nikolaj Arcel (screenplay), Rasmus Heisterberg (screenplay), Stieg Larsson (novel)
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Lena Endre, Peter Haber
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows Millennium Magazine journalist Michael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who is convicted of libel in a case following the corrupt trail of Hans-Erik Wennerström (Stefan Sauk). Blomkvist, who is now sentenced to jail time, decides to leave the magazine, only to be given a new assignment by Swedish businessman, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube). Vanger is searching for clues in the disappearance of his niece, whose body was never found. Blomkvist is intrigued and takes the assignment.
Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been researching Blomkvist for Henrik Vanger. Lisbeth is an outcast who also happens to be a genius. Her life is turbulent: she is minor whose life has been given over to a guardian that does not have her best interests at heart. Blomkvist and Salander ultimately meet and begin to search for Harriet Vanger together. The two make a formidable team, with Blomkvist’s experience as a journalist and Salander’s computer expertise proving to be an invaluable combination. Just when Blomkvist and Salander feel they are getting close to solving the mystery, unexpected twists take them down a very sinister path.
When I heard The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was showing at SXSW, I was both excited and apprehensive. Excited because The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is probably my favorite work of crime fiction—and Swedish crime fiction at that. My apprehension dealt with the way the book would be handled, meaning that there was so much there, I was afraid the late Stieg Larsson’s book would get butchered. In the end I left the theater extremely uneasy, not because of the way the film was presented, but because of the subject matter, which, if you’ve been fortunate enough to read the book, will leave you more than a bit uncomfortable.
Indeed, Niels Arden Oplev did the book justice with a film that manages to successfully weave the mysterious tale of a serial murderer with one of corporate corruption and ultimately the mistreatment of women. I was quite surprised to see that the film did not hold back on the violence that is prevalent in the book. But unlike so many movies that use brutality simply for the sake of attracting an audience, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo utilizes said violence in the same way the book uses it—mainly to show how Lisbeth Salander could be mistreated in both her past and present life and still be such a strong, powerful woman. There are a number of grizzly serial elements going on, but it is more to push along the story, and not inserted for shock value.
I must say I was thoroughly satisfied with the film, not only because it followed the book (with a few minor exceptions), but also because it was well-directed and well-cast. Oplev successfully brought Larsson’s tale to life in a way that would be unheard of in Hollywood (And yes, there is an American version in the works.). On the casting front, Michael Nyqivst plays Mikael Blomkvist and is exactly as I pictured him in the novel. In addition Noomi Rapace was perfect for the role of the unlikely heroine Lisbeth Salander, the goth chick with a disturbing past. Anyone who is a fan of Larsson’s should be impressed; anyone who is not will most likely become a fan after they see the film.