The Swedish thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ( original title Män Som Hatar Kvinnor – “Men Who Hate Women”) is based on the first part of a trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. One out of three Swedes have read Larsson’s novels, which have been sold in 40 different countries. (Filmmaker Jane Campion who was recently in San Francisco said she was reading the novels and loved them.)The film adaptations are breaking box office records in Sweden and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won best picture of the year at the National Swedish Awards (“Guldbagge”) in January.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is directed by Nils Arden Oplev (Denmark). Typically Swedish winter nature scenes with wildlife are beautiful but the tone of the film is dark and chilling. The editing and art direction are skillfully executed in a fast paced drama for a Swedish film. For Bergman fans, veteran actors from Ingmar Bergman’s stable have minor roles: Eva Fröing, Gunnel Lindblom and Lena Endre, looking slightly out of place in the 21st century.
Noomi Rapace, an excellent up and coming Swedish actor, plays the main character Lisbeth Salander who sports nose rings, earrings, tattoos, black duds, piercings and short hair cut strategically to hang over one eye, and who engages in frantic chain smoking and drives a huge motorcycle. For her role as Salander, Rapace won best actress at the National Swedish Awards.
Lisbeth Salander is an expert hacker sent to investigate journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Mikael Nyqvist) who has been indicted on charges of slander against a Swedish industrial tycoon. In the meantime before trial Mikael is recruited by the head of the wealthy Vanger family to find the grand uncle’s niece who has been missing for years. Salander later assists Mikael Blomqvist and turns up answers to a mystery he can’t really see.
Lisbeth’s past serves as the foundation for the subterranean issues of sexual violence that rip through the surface of the film, and motivate the Swedish tile. In several visceral scenes Lisbeth confronts predators with force. The pace of the film is captivating, especially when Lisbeth Salander is on the screen.
Michael Nyqvist praises the film because just a computer, a cell phone and asking a few questions solves the mystery. (Listen to interview with Michael Nyqvist on Movie Magazine International, San Francisco March 17th). He also thinks it was cowardly not to keep the original Swedish title.
There are two more novels and two more films in the works with Lisbeth Salander, a character inspired by Stieg Larsson’s own niece. Getting Lisbeth right was crucial and Rapace pulls it off brilliantly. The interaction between Rapace and Nyqvist takes a while to get into since they are such an odd couple. Nyqvist said that they didn’t speak in between scenes in order to be able to focus on their roles in the narrative. He is not up for sequels or prequels after the three films, its not his thing he says. But there is going to be a Hollywood version of the film anyway,
Now playing in San Francisco at Landmark Theatres.