In one what must count as one of the great tragedies of the 21st century literary fiction world, Swedish writer Stieg Larsson never lived to enjoy the fruits of success from his wildly popular crime novels.
Since most of ye schmucks read so little, some education is in order before we proceed to the movie review.
Larsson is the author of the Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).
Serious readers of the SI blog will, of course, recollect the Larsson name since we’ve reviewed two of his books on these pages: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire. We just got the third volume – The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – a few days back and will read and review that as well.
Alas, Larsson died of a massive heart attack at 50 just before the first book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published.
Such then are the vagaries of life.
Lovely Swedish Film
Today we celebrate Larsson’s life with the review of the film version of Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
The movie debuted this morning at the Ritz 5 theater on Walnut St in Philadelphia and, folks, the 125-mile drive was most certainly worth it. Every single mile of it.
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, faithful to the novel and featuring Michael Nyqvist as the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as the oddball hacker Lisbeth Salander, the Swedish language film with English subtitles is as wonderful and as gripping as the book.
Agreed, some of the thrill of the whodunit is lost since readers of the book know the ending and the identity of the rotten apple in the Vanger family. But that’s more than amply compensated by the excitement and anticipation of encountering in color on the big screen the characters you’ve read about in small black print on the pages of a book.
Like the book, the movie focuses on the search for the killer/killers of 16-year-old Harriet Vanger, who disappeared 40 years back from Hedeby island to the great anguish of her dear grandfather Henrik Vanger, the head of the Vanger conglomerate.
In four decades, his missing grand-niece has become the idée fixe of Henrik Vanger’s life and the old man has left no stone unturned to get at the root of her disappearance. But in vain.
Finally, the old man in a last ditch attempt hires disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist to unravel the mysterious disappearance of Harriet.
Out of a job following his conviction in a libel case and awaiting a prison sentence, Blomkvist moves to the cold Hedeby island and gets to work to resolve Harriet’s disappearance.
The old man (Henrik Vanger) tells Blomkvist that the killer is surely among the ’30 small-minded and greedy people’ of the Vanger clan who had gathered on that fateful day in 1966 in Hedeby.
Unbeknownst to Blomkvist, our girl with the dragon tattoo Lisbeth Salander is also at work.
Quietly and in unorthodox ways.
And soon their paths collide.
There are two tracks in the movie – the main Harriet Vanger story and the lesser Lisbeth Salander account and they are neatly interwoven into the script.
Both Mikael Nyquist and Noomi Rapace are fine actors and do their parts with great aplomb.
Particularly, Noomi Rapace playing the girl Lisbeth, who’s a victim of every scumbag crossing her path.
Noomi Rapace seems to have been born to play the part of the emotionally disturbed Lisbeth, her weird piercings, large tattoo, odd mannerisms, secretive nature, bisexual appetite and all.
But it’s not just to Nyquist and Rapace that we owe a debt.
Sven-Bertil Taube as the old industrialist Henrik Vanger, Peter Haber as Martin Vanger and the rest of the crew are all a joy to watch.
There are a few explicit scenes including one (two??) of brutal rape.
So unless you want your little son/daughter to ask you why a big dildo is being shoved into ****’s ass when he’s chained to the floor you might want to leave the kids pests at home.
Despite a fairly long running time (2-hours and 31-minutes), in the able hands of director Niels Arden Oplev the movie never has a dull moment and proceeds at a frenetic pace against the icy backdrop of Hedeby.
The photography is pleasing. And Hedeby island appears as remote and bleak and frigid and lonely in the movie as in the book.
The big questions are: Will non-readers of the book feel the same frisson of delight in the movie that we did? Will non-readers be able to navigate through the movie’s plot and large set of characters the way Larsson fans can do with ease?
In Europe, the movie is a big hit since its release in February 2009 (some chatter online suggests this film was the biggest grosser there in 2009).
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in limited release in the U.S. Check Fandango or movietickets.com to see if it’s playing in a theater near you.
Oh wait, here’s a list of U.S. theatres where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is playing. Must be one close to you.
Enjoy the film and do let us know how you found it.
Surely, it won’t be long before a big budget Hollywood version with marquee names arrives. In a world with few certainties, the upcoming Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the few sure things.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Abba of Whodunits