There’s an expectation among some American moviegoers that foreign films, particularly those with subtitles, are boring, inaccessible works that sacrifice action in order to search for elusive higher meaning. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the movie that disproves any such notion.
The Swedish film screens at Muse Arts Warehouse on Sunday, kicking off the new season of “Movies Savannah Missed” presented by the Psychotronic Film Society.
An adaptation of a book that sold 8 million copies worldwide, Dragon Tattoo was released in the US last year after an acclaimed run across the pond, and although it really only gained traction among indie cinephiles in the States, it is a dark, intelligent thriller of the highest order – the kind of edge–of–your–seat whodunit that usually fares well at the domestic box office – which might be why it’s slated for a Hollywood remake starring Daniel Craig.
Director Niels Arden Oplev deftly weaves together several complex storylines and within the first few minutes viewers are introduced to Henrik Vanger, a mourning, isolated billionaire, Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced investigative journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a punk rock hacker with a heart of gold and a troubled past. The three characters intersect and then orbit around the mysterious disappearance of Vanger’s niece 40 years earlier.
Blomkvist is hired by Vanger, who lives in a remote island compound/estate with remaining members of his family, who dislike one another but are bound by the massive corporate conglomerate baring their family name. Henrik has obsessed over the disappearance of his niece every day for decades, but the trail has gone cold.
Judging by the storyline, one way to wile away the long, cold Swedish winter is exploring the darkest corners of the human psyche. The original title of the book and film in Swedish translates to Men Who Hate Women, and serial misogyny turned unrelenting psychopathic tendencies is a central tenant of a majority of the male characters (with the exception of the protagonist Blomkvist) from ancient Nazis to sexually abusive probation officers. These lead to a brutal torture scene or two, which are definitely inappropriate for younger theatergoers.
Actress Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth Salander, absolutely steals the screen, and her character – who bares the brunt of some of the aforementioned torture – is a study in the complex and cynical physical and psychological walls a person can construct around themselves. As the film progresses, we also watch them begin to crack, particularly as she becomes romantically involved with Blomkvist (actually one of the few weak spots in the storyline of the film – but not by any fault of her acting).
Her performance as Lisbeth, a character Rapace completely inhabits, is triangulated by Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby – loaded with non–verbal expressiveness and a troubled, empathetic approachability.
For fans of movies like Seven,and other dark, writhing thrillers, the original version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a must see. It’s sharp, and the Hollywood remake will almost certainly dull that edge.
Movies Savannah Missed: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
When: At 2, 5 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703 D Louisville Rd.