The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (Män som hatar kvinnor, Sweden-Denmark-Germany-Norway, 2009)

A man who hates women

The Swedish title of the film (and the book it’s based on) is the better Men Who Hate Women as that makes clear that misogyny was Stieg Larsson’s target in the first book of the Millennium Trilogy. This misogyny is viscerally portrayed in a rape scene that borders on exploitative (there’s one very brief and out of focus shot from behind the splayed buttocks of the victim) but, I think, just avoids going too far; focusing on the woman’s face and screams is sufficient to portray the obscenity of the act. It is a long time since I’ve felt so discomforted by a mainstream film. It’s a while since Hollywood has dealt with such issues in a high profile film and it’s planning a remake.

Following Shutter Island I was concerned, during the first 15 minutes, that having read the book would spoil the film. However, that feeling was soon dispensed as the adaptation was lean and compelling. The English language title emphasises the character of Lisbeth Salandar (Noomi Rapace – brilliant in the role) who is both a victim and the narrative hero. In another role reversal from the usual tropes in mainstream cinema, she is sexually assertive in her relationship with the male lead.

It’s good to see a two and a half hour foreign language film doing well at the box office; no doubt inspired by the book. However, the Wallender series (books and TV) has also stimulated the appetite for Swedish thrillers. What will the Hollywood remake look like? Given David Fincher is attached, it could be very interesting though artistically there is no point in remaking a very good film.

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