Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

(Movie Review)

A few weeks back I was having coffee with a friend, and for reasons I don't quite remember we got to talking about Heavenly Creatures.

I had seen this movie purely by chance. I was a Freshman at Calvin, and the Calvin film committee had been showing weekly movies every Saturday night. Sometimes when I couldn't get myself invited out to a party somewhere I would kill my solitary Saturday nights by wandering over and watching whatever movie they were showing. One week they showed Heavenly Creatures.

I had known absolutely nothing about the movie before it started--never even heard of it before. The abrupt tonal shift at the end of the movie took me completely off-guard. Up until the end I had thought I was watching a movie about a friendship between two girls with elements of a children's fairy tale fantasy. The horrifying ending really shocked me. And yet, because it had shocked me so much, the movie has stayed vivid in my mind years 15 years later (unlike countless other movies in the intervening years which I've watched and promptly forgotten.)

I must have been getting a little bit too animated in trying to convey all this, because my friend just laughed and told me to calm down a bit. I apologized, and then said "but isn't it true that the movies that really chill you are the ones that stick with you?"

She thought about this for a minute, and then said she agreed. And said the last movie that had really chilled her, and stuck in her mind for this reason, was "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
Up until this time, I had no interest in watching "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." As a literary snob, I'm always wary of bestselling books. And the movie had seemed a little bit too art-house trendy for me. But after this conversation, I decided I wanted to check it out.

So the next time my brother-in-law and I were in the video store looking for something to rent, I suggested this movie.

It is, of course, always an exercise in futility to go into one movie expecting it to make you feel the same way as another movie. A problem to this genre in particular is that there are only so many times in this life that we can be genuinely shocked before we start to become immune to it. When I was 18 I was, at least as far as my movie going experience is concerned, probably a lot more innocent and naive than I am now.

And so, not surprisingly, this movie failed to make as much of an impression on me as Heavenly Creatures did.

In fact I found it entirely forgettable.

This is your average mystery/ suspense thriller movie, of which there are a dime a dozen, and I didn't find it particularly better than any of the other various mystery suspense movies I've seen over the years.
It wasn't any worse, mind you, but at the end of it I was left wondering what all the hype had been about. (The video rental box had bragged that this was the biggest money making film in Europe in 2009, and the highest grossing Swedish film in history.)

My brother-in-law had the same reaction. "If this hadn't been a foreign language subtitled film," he said, "I would just have considered it a bad movie."

I wonder about that myself. If this film had been released as just a normal English language film, and if it had been released without any of the hype, would people have even noticed it?
(Yes, the sexual assault scenes were disturbing to watch, but they produced revulsion in me rather than a really chilling horror. Plus the far-fetched plot made it hard for me to forget at any time that I was watching a movie, and that these were fictional characters and not real life situations.)

However, I won't go as far as to say the film bored me. It had my attention all the way through.
The film starts off as a mildly intriguing murder mystery. I was watching to see what would develop. There were also a couple different plots going on at once, and I was curious to see how they would come together. "The girl with the dragon tattoo" herself seemed at the beginning to be a minor character in her own movie, and I was curious to see how the plot was going to come around to her.

As they work to solve the crime there are a couple surprises and a couple red-herrings along the way, but that's pretty standard in these type of movies. And the bad guy, when he is ultimately confronted, turns out to be a pretty sick and twisted individual, but if you've seen "Silence of the Lambs" (or any equivalent suspense movie) there's really nothing new in here.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky: Gaza - One Year Later

and: The Fustercluck Doctrine

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