I was probably the last person in the upper Midwest to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m glad I did, if only because I no longer will have to wonder what all the fuss was about. But the experience didn’t make me eager to see the other two.
The film takes us to some dark and revolting places. But the violence and sexual abuse amount to only ten minutes of film time (albeit a long ten minutes)and for the rest, it’s just a well-made Swedish thriller in which outcasts and journalists confront the Good Old Boys of capitalist corruption, greed, murder, exploitation, and so on. The “girl” in the title, pierced and tattooed, has been so bent out of shape by bad experiences at the hands of men that she seethes with unexpressed anger—yet most viewers will find her intriguing, and more than that, attractive. The male lead, a journalist played by Michael Nyqvist, is simultaneously committed, resigned, wary, naïve, amorous, and reserved. All in all, he seems to be a pretty nice guy.
While watching the film, I was reminded from time to time of another film Nyqvist made recently called As It Is in Heaven. In this one he plays a world-famous conductor who returns to the remote village in northern Sweden where he grew up to recover following a nervous breakdown. Soon he becomes involved with the local church choir—though he mostly just wants to be alone—and as he gets to know the villagers, a variety of sub-plots develop involving the parish priest (who’s envious of his popularity and doubtful about his religious convictions) a few lovely choir-members, and a boorish enemy from his childhood days.
Some parts of the film are corny and some parts are badly staged, but there is also quite a bit of life to the be found there. In particular, the avant garde choir rehearsals are choice. At various places I was reminded of Waiting for Guffman and Shultz Gets the Blues while watching it. It’s one of those works the shortcomings of which obvious…though its humanity is not to be missed.
About The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I’m not so sure.