I don’t watch much movies coming from Scandinavia, or any other country other than the US, Great Britain and my native country The Netherlands. Only on occasion when a movie transcends its borders due to international critical acclaim I track down these so-called art-house movies even though they can hardly be called art-house in much cases. Well not in the case of Banlieu 13 nor in the case of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (aka Millennium: Part 1 – Men Who Hate Women). The first of the so-called Millennium Trilogy about a great, if not the best, (female) hacker who just so happens to be a Goth and a disgraced journalist who are hired to solve a decades old missing persons case of which a relative believes to be murdered even though a body was never found.
I like this kind of movie. It reminded me of The Ghost Writer, State Of Play and in some way of the many detectives on TV. A movie of which you know that there’s something bigger going on than is shown on screen, where everybody could present a danger to the protagonists and as always set in a remote location. Difficult to reach, even more to difficult to escape from when needed. Remote islands are favored for that piece of the plot and is used here in the form of a Peninsula. With just one road leading to to this remote area.
Atmosphere is important and said remote location do wonders for setting it. That is no different in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The remote area really adds to an already intriguing story which takes up almost two and a half hours. The movie takes its time to establish a solid dynamic between the two lead characters; Mikael, the goody two shoes journalist and Lisbeth, the emotionally scarred hacker. They both have their issues. He’s six months away from a prison sentence he has to undergo for lost libel case. She is under supervision by a legal guardian after a troublesome youth in which she murdered her own father by setting him on fire for abusing her. Her life is a downward spiral from there which probably led to her extravagant look. Even her guardian revokes the freedom she had with her previous guardian and demands sexual favors from her in return for access to her trust fund at one point even raping her brutally. She retaliates by having the whole affair taped and presenting him this by tasing him, tying him up and showing him the tape while tattooing “I am a sadistic pig and a rapist” on his chest. The same sort of punishment Brad Pitt gave Nazis in Inglourious Basterds.
Hell have no fury for a woman scorned.
Which brings us to the disappearance case once again. Religion is playing a big part in the background of the case which leads to multiple murder cases. Like Seven religion here is presented as part of the reason as well as the M.O. for a killer. Not original but intriguing as always.
The strongest part of the motive is that it takes its time to set up the story and the two main characters apart from each other. It is not until an hour has passed before they actually meet each other. Before that happens the main case is set up and we get to know a bit about our characters without having them actually interact. Especially Lisbeth is interesting as her character is flawed the most. the events that happen to her are gruesome enough they could justify a movie of her own, but those kinds of movies have been done to death and we don’t really need yet another “I spit on your grave”. Her character is constantly being developed and explored from beginning to end. Dealing with rape, setting her up as a lesbian and her somewhat precocious romantic involvement with Mikael are only part of that. One of the strongest scenes was how she surprised a sleeping Mikael and had sex with him only to depart immediately after having an orgasm and not even speaking about it the next morning. Clearly she’s assuming the role of a guy in this case. Her character is as interesting as the murder-plot is. Together they make each other even stronger forming a solid movie with great characters.