I’m a wimp when it comes to violence and horror in films (and in life, I think. Fortunately, there have been very few occasions when my nerves have been tested for fear). I skipped “Drive” only because I’d been told about some gory, skull smash. I’ve been haunted by the sound of the arm bone being crunched to create multiple fractures in “Irreversible”. Just writing that line has me shuddering uncomfortably.

So, given my wimpiness, despite the reviews and the shoo-sha about David Denby breaking the embargo, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was not on my list of must-sees. (Someone described the ruckus over Denby’s review as a publicity stunt. “If the review had been bad, I might have had a doubt that it’s not staged. But this is just transparently staged.”) A little more than 12 hours after watching it, I’m still not sure whether I’d say it’s essential viewing. It’s efficiently made, has some strong performances and Steve Zaillian’s script is good but Stieg Larsson’s book is way better.

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is slick, oil-and-tar slick. From the music video-ish credit titles, the almost monochromatic palette, the ominous musical accents from the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross soundtrack, Daniel Craig’s designer stubble and the beautiful geometry of the locations in which the film is shot, everything in the film seems to be perfectly calibrated and harmonised. Which is my problem with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. Fincher’s film is so intently crafted that it screams Hollywood. The punch in the gut one felt from reading “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was in how real it felt. Larsson seemed to be ripping the taut smooth skin of polite Swedish society and reveal its innards. That was what haunted those who read and liked the books, particularly the first one.

David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is graphic, violent and filled with disturbing imagery. Strangely though, I didn’t find it haunting. It’s a film that holds your attention for most of the two hours and twenty minutes. (There’s a Mills & Boon touch to the romantic relationship in the film which successfully ends the film on a laughable low note.) But my quibble with it is that it was too obviously a story. Every detail is so intently crafted that you never forget this is fiction. Daniel Craig is relentlessly sexy as the James Bond of journalists. (I’m not usually a Craig fan, but really, I wish journalists were that charismatic and super-sleuth-ish in real life.)

Rooney Mara is a good actress but every time I saw her, I thought “make-up and costume”. Dramatic transformations are difficult to pull off with credibility. Cate Blanchett did it in and as “Elizabeth”. You knew she’d done things like shaved her eyebrows and hairline and what-not, but when you saw her on screen, she was living that look. With Rooney Mara, it’s different. You never lose sight of this being a costume. Also, Mara had an air of frightened fragility about her that didn’t gel with how I’d imagined Lisbeth Salander. Looking at Mara’s bleached eyebrows and into her wide eyes, I didn’t see anything feral or wild. I just saw vulnerability. Mara’s Lisbeth Salander isn’t scary, and that, for me, is a huge problem in Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

11 thoughts on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    • I’m surprised that you haven’t resigned yourself to the fact that as far as your tastes are concerned, I have no standards.

  1. The nytimes, my go-to for blockbuster reviews, says: “And when Mikael and Lisbeth interrupt their sleuthing for a bit of nonviolent sex, we see all of Ms. Mara and quite a bit less of Mr. Craig, whose naked torso is by now an eyeful of old news. This disparity is perfectly conventional — the exploitation of female nudity is an axiom of modern cinema — but it also represents a failure of nerve and a betrayal of the sexual egalitarianism Lisbeth Salander argues for and represents.”

    mm, rape porn, cheesy futurism, 90s gothy cybercrap and a generous dose of imbricated misogyny.

    are you trying to say I don’t respect your standards? psh, not true. I wonder where you got that from.

    • Either my nerves have steeled with old age or the film really didn’t get it right. Because I’m generally like you when it comes to gore. After this movie, though, I’m fine.

  2. But did you watch the first movie? Apparently there is some horrible scene in it. I heard people vomited.

    BTW this is the one – the theme I mean. It’s working nicely.
    Leo will probably complaint about it. But thats a given.

    • Re: theme. It’s nice, no? Paper texture, colour, all-round niceness. I thought it worked too. Of course Leo will complain. He complained even when I didn’t change anything.

      I did see some of the first Swedish one. It didn’t work too well for me and neither did it really hold my attention though that could be because I really didn’t have the stomach for the gore. Noomi Rapace, though, I liked a lot. She was solid as Lisbeth Salander, for me. I just thought the book was much more absorbing. It was a super pulp mystery. At no point did I want to give it up mid-way and it was unlike anything I’d ever imagined coming out of Sweden. Neither of the films have that … zing to them.

    • Let The Right One In was fantastic. I loved it, and it froke me out every five minutes.

      So far as the violence and disturbing quality of Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is concerned, I think I’ve totally lost my mind or my sensitivity or both (third option is most likely, I suspect). Everyone seems to be harrowed by the graphic nature of the film. I mean, obviously a rape isn’t easy viewing, but I don’t feel as flayed by it as other people do.

  3. Oh no no, I can’t watch a rape.

    It ruins movies for me.

    In all good Barbara Cartland’s the girl is always saved before the rape. That’s my set expectation for all fiction.

    You must be quite desensitized.

    • I’m telling you, I’ve lost it. Completely and utterly. Whatever was left of “it”, that is. Sigh.

      Do not watch this film. Not all the Barbara Cartlands in this world will be enough to stage a recovery.

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