She’s meek but strong, agile yet fragile, rude yet altogether kind. Lisbeth Salander, computer-hacking femme-heroin of David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, represents a new breed of powerful female archetype, one created distinctly for the information generation.
Originally created by Steig Larsson for his wildly popular Millenium trilogy of novels, Lisbeth has been since recreated by Noomi Rapace for Niels Arden Oplev’s excellent 2009 Swedish adaptation, and now by Rooney Mara; she’s that cute, articulate girl who looks a shadow of herself than the one who graced Fincher’s lens for the first scene in The Social Network.
In all Lisbeth’s recreations, this one is the fiercest; a slithery, snake and mouse hybrid, trembling out of fear, but packing a mean punch. Lisbeth’s violent rape and revenge sequences of the novels have, until this adaptation, been but mumbled or whispered on camera. In Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth’s brutal origins as an abused woman take center take, and her masochistic revenge tactics are embraced with moody lighting and evasive, nauseous camera play. Fincher’s take is darker, more corrupt, and unafraid – of certain things.
Still, in Fincher’s adaptation there are changes made to much of the beloved source material. Most centrally, the key relationship between Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth is flushed out and mutated to pseudo-romantic proportions. For those unfamiliar with the tale, Lisbeth shares center stage with the debunked journalist Blomkvist, as the pair investigate the decades-old murder mystery of Harriet Vanger. The pair are hired by Harriet’s wealthy uncle, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the owner of a family-owned billion dollar corporation. The Vanger family lives on their own island, though few speak to one another. With a family full of Nazis, rapists, embezzlers, and thieves, the suspect list is numerous, and Libseth and Mikael trek on through snow and their mounting sexual relationship to find Harriet’s killer.
Yes, Fincher has made large changes to Larsson’s original tale, some successful, some not so much. Fincher has taken Millenium’s politically charged Sweden and transformed it into a frozen-solid hub of corporate corruption. Both Mikael and Lisbeth have felt the oppression of the Swedish “man”, be it through Government monitoring or liable litigation. It is through their investigative work with each other that Mikael and Lisbeth attempt to vindicate and free themselves: the journalist from the corporate scum that sued him for reporting harmful lies, and Lisbeth from the Government appointed guardian who has his hands in her pockets and down her pants.
But so much of the vengeful, kick ass empowerment that Fincher has so skillfully and meticulously bread with his cold world of steel, impenetrable high-rises and the band of brief-case carrying torments who dwell inside them, is so thoroughly betrayed by Fincher’s constant indulgence in the salacious. From a deep-rooted hatred of the oppressor comes a violent and sexual appreciation for how they oppress. The rape and torture scenes, masochistic and brutal, seem to revel in the thin, muscled, sexualized bodies that are being tormented. Lisbeth, a creature of such anger and pain that wishes only to eradicate herself from the male chauvinist pigs who steal her money and her freedom, has her rail thin body completely objectified in her rape and love scenes, alike. There is a lack of correlation between this film’s hard edge of activism and the pleasure it takes in sexualizing its struggles.
Personally, I was weary of this adaptation, as I did not understand why it needed Americanizing at all. After all, the Oplev trilogy were well-produced, highly entertaining films. Oh wait, they have subtitles, right? That clearly wasn’t flying in the Western world.
Snark aside, (if that’s even possible), I am pleased to report that the Fincher remake has carved its own identity alongside Oplev’s adaptations. If they’re going to splash Daniel Craig’s abs around “For Your Consideration” Oscar ads, the film they are endorsing this year can at least be a separate beast than its subtitled sisters. In this way, Fincher is wildly successful. The eerily talented Steven Zaillian (also adapted Moneyball, among many others), has aided with Larsson’s original pacing problems, and the gritty, cold aesthetic of Fincher’s moody take is too cool to be denied. With the help of Fincher favorites Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the haunting, perturbing score brings Larsson’s snowy world to newly vibrating and unnerving proportions. Sweden is alive, cold, and monitored. The result is hip, problematic, and deeply layered.
As far as its Oscar future goes, it’s somewhat unclear at the moment. If it has anything going for it, it will not meet the same “peak too soon” fate of Fincher’s 2010 “they were absolutely robbed for Best Picture” film The Social Network. The dream team of producer Scott Rudin and David Fincher will get Oscar voters attention with some nominations, but will maybe not result in many wins. It received a bit of confidence from the Hollywood Foreign Press, with two Golden Globe nominations: Rooney Mara for Best Actress, Drama and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Best Original Score. However, Fincher and the film were snubbed for Best Director and Best Picture nominations. That being said, the film had not been widely released yet and it just may not have been in GG voters’ minds at all.
I predict The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo securing a Best Director nod for Fincher, a Best Actress nod for Rooney Mara, and a Best Original Score nomination for the Reznor/Ross team. Other than that, the film will need to pick up some critical steam if it wishes to lock down a larger list of nominations.
Did you read the Millenium trilogy? Did you see the Swedish film versions? Will you be seeing this adaptation? Drop me a line in the comment section!