Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night and was very entertained.  Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has classic underdog appeal, the plot (a murder case decades in the making) is intricate enough to keep you intrigued but not so complex as to be inaccessible, and the underlying ethos, while plagued by a series of rapists and Nazis, as well as a garden variety leading man (Daniel Craig) who has sex with every female character, can get away with calling itself feminist.

As A. O. Scott recently wrote in the Times, however, there are some quaint devices, like the James Bond-esque bad guy who confesses everything right before he attempts to kill the hero in a Dr. Seussian way instead of by just shooting him.  But I enjoyed having my strings pulled by this film, largely because of the compelling character that is Lisbeth.  She’s diminutive—“emaciated”—in stature, with all kinds of earrings and tattoos and a fondness for what an ignoramus like me might dub death metal.  She’s been abused and victimized her entire life, and has all the social skills of an Asperger’s sufferer as a result, but she also wields a remarkable skill set: spying, hacking, researching.  She knows how to get revenge, but she also has her weaknesses (as all female characters must, obvi).  All the same, she represents a refreshing departure from the norm for action film protagonists.

Because I see a lot of theater, film, when I do see it, is a marvel.  Film directors can accomplish so much in so brief a time, suggesting an entire scene in just a few seconds.  The screenplay of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an excellent adaptation, thrifty in its storytelling, brisk in its pace.  (While A. O. Scott found the exposition ponderous, I thought it necessary to the narrative.)  (And my mother, an avid fan of the trilogy, said the film felt quite faithful to the book.)  The experience makes me wonder how many contemporary novels could be readily adapted into plays.  My uneducated guess is not many; current narratives seem to tend toward the cinematic in structure.  And how many novels could limit themselves to only a few scene changes?  Theater might continue to be on its own for a while.


  1. One of the things I found most pleasing about that film was the way that Blomkvist and Salander mirrored one another without that mirroring being particularly gendered (to my eye). Both she and Blomkvist are investigators, searchers for truth: he through making unpredictable, intuitive, big-picture connections, her through relentless datamining. If anything, those roles are reversals of what I would think of as "traditional" gender roles. And another reversal: you make light of her having weaknesses as part of her being a woman, but I found it remarkable that Blomkvist, instead of the girl, is the one who blandly wanders into the murderer's trap and has to be rescued.

    I couldn't make up my mind whether all the female flesh was prurient or plot-driven (you saw a decently indecent amount of Craig, too, but not nearly as much), but the fact that everyone seemed to be having sex with everyone also pleasantly moved the ball forward, I thought: Salander, despite being attacked, coped using the mechanisms she developed for herself, and refused to become a victim. Whereas Blomkvist, blond white male that he is, has his hand held through the whole movie and ends up being rescued by the girl.

    Happy New Year, btw! I saw this with Daddo the day after Christmas--but that's the way we Weils roll.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Public Weil! (What would PRIVATE WEIL have to say?!) You're right that my angry feminist remark was a bit of a stretch. Another interesting choice, along your line of thought, might be that the film doesn't even ask Craig's character to feel guilty about not being masculine enough. The way his life just blithely picks back up where it left off, with another woman... what an unusual(ly realistic?) way for a film to end!