Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara as the formidable Lisbeth Salander
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (U.S., 2011) directed by David Fincher, 161 minutes
Nominated for Six Oscars for
    Best Actress in a Leading Role - Rooney Mara
    Best Cinematography
    Best Film Editing
    Best Sound Editing
    Best Sound Mixing
    Best Cinematography

I always question the need to remake a good film because North American audiences don't like to read subtitles but with this remake of the Swedish original, director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network) has largely succeeded in replicating the complexity and creepiness of both the best selling book by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson and the original film. I recall, too, that there was a great deal of skepticism about Rooney Mara playing the role of the formidable Lisbeth Salander. I had my doubts but she has done a phenomenal job in this role. 

Who on the planet does not know the plot of this film by now? If so please take a moment to read a synopsis here in a review of the book I did two years ago. 

I was pleased that Fincher was able to physically match the American actors in this film with the Swedish actors in the original whom I felt were quite excellent - Daniel Craig/Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomquist), Rooney Mara/Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander) and Robin Wright/Lena Endre (Erica Berger). It is a small thing but it lends a kind of continuity to the tale that is helpful in following the sometimes complicated  narrative.

I didn't think that Mara could top Rapace's work but she is very much her equal and actually conforms more exactly to the physical type of Salander in the book. The actress Rapace is pretty and womanly, nothing can hide those curves and that face in her representation of Salander. Mara is more of the superhero-waif that Larssen depicted in the book - not pretty, small, sullen, highly sexual, physically powerful when roused. 

Part of the concern I had with the book was the long-winded beginning detailing the Wennerstrom scandal. Here Fincher understands that the tiny, minute details are not important to the plot - Blomquist has been vanquished by this billionaire capitalist criminal and must retreat, tale between his legs, to work for Henrik Vanger to help him determine who killed his granddaughter Harriet Vanger. The scandal is merely a vehicle to throw Blomquist into the path of the alleged killer of Harriet (and into the arms of Lisbeth).

The sexual violence perpetrated against Lisbeth, and by Lisbeth, is horrific and I questioned whether this was necessary in both book and film. On the other hand, it goes a long way to demonstrate how it has shaped her into the rageful, unpredictable creature that she becomes.

The lighting is stark and revealing - all of the characters look haggard, weather-worn as if shaped by the harsh Swedish climate. Even the very beautiful like Craig and Wright are not spared - every line, every wrinkle is revealed - they look every bit their age. The film is bathed in cool blues and greys - exactly right for a Swedish winter where much of the action takes place.

This film resolves the mystery of Harriet's disappearance in a slightly different way. It is less complicated, less detailed but is still satisfying and probably more logical.

It is something to see the compact Mara coming to the aid of Craig who does double cinematic duty as the latest James Bond hero - he does an excellent job of demonstrating real fear of the various nemeses who beleaguer the pair and Mara is masterful in the demolishing of their foes. That alone is worth the price of admission.


Cheryl said...

I love these reviews!!!

Michelle said...

Thanks Cheryl, you are always so sweet and encouraging!

Christine said...

I also love these reviews. Look forward to every new one.

Michelle said...

Aw, so nice!