Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

In the Dirty Harry films Clint Eastwood established a dynamic by which retribution is justified by the degree of the crime being avenged. Harry Callahan was the best argument there is for terrorism as a response to oppression and his .44 Magnum is curiously prescient of escalating cycles of vengeance and reprisal not only on an individual level but in troubled parts of our present world. In David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larrson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a similar dynamic is working. The over the top vengeance that Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) engineers is directly proportionate the traumas she’s experienced both in the present, as a victim of a brutal rape, and in the past by virtue of her abusive upbringing. She's the spokes person for all the mutilated women in the movie, the equivalent of a walking class action suit against a world of serial murders and sexual abusers. The novel and the movie on which it’s based, whatever one may think of them, are, however, beyond good and evil, since they are cultural phenomenae and significant as products of their times. And what makes them unique? Firstly, on the broadest level, to quote George Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The film is mired in repetitions, beginning and ending on an accident, perpetrating a family line of sexual predators and propagating the notion of a never ending cycle of revenge. Beyond this, every era produces its own private eyes and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo presents a social misfit, threatened with institutionalization, who is a master of bisexuality, hacking and self-mutilation (to the extent that she is pierced and tattooed). As private eyes go, Lisbeth is about as far from the cool elegance of  The Thin Man as they come, yet she’s an acute observer and up there with the best shamuses.  Archaic forms of  Christianity permeate the plot and also recall the kind of nightmarish form of Christianity that raised its head in, in The Exorcist  and more recently in The Da Vinci Code. Most of the movie takes place on an island and one can’t help thinking about another island in contemporary Swedish folklore and that’s Bergman’s Faro where sadism, familial agony and a God that was both haunting and silent were also portrayed, albeit with eons greater profundity and a total lack of the kind of emotional manipulation that both Larsson and Fincher excel at.


  1. OK, nice. I myself have been sated mightily by viewing the Swedish trilogy and can't imagine seeing another abstract of an original. So no thanks, Hollywood.

  2. Yes and at 3hrs Fincer's Dragon requires a substantialcommitment, but speaking of Swedish trilogies I prefer "Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence love Francis


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