The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
By Billy Stevenson
From all the critical buzz surrounding The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I went into its film adaptation expecting a good escapist thriller, with a few stylistic flourishes, and maybe an occasional sly nod in the direction of 'big issues'. All I can say is - what a piece of shit.
Where do i start? Firstly, it was a research/paper-trail thriller - a genre that can really work, but only when the research process is structured around a series of increasingly revelatory/transformative discoveries, or at least elaborates interesting/evocative research spaces (small town libraries, underground microfilm holdings, archives of every sort), or, at the very least, is deliberately bathetic/anticlimactic/underwhelming (think Zodiac). Here, every discovery was prefaced and telegraphed by (literally) about five to ten superimpositions/flashbacks/voiceovers, just in case we hadn't got it.
There was no character development/interiority. Again, not necessarily a problem for a procedural thriller, except that the 'girl' was imbued with this whole sensationalist backstory, which was supposed to imbue her motivations with darkness/depth, but, for me, just felt like one enormous gimmick, or, worse, a mere affirmation of the erotic potency of the central journalist (read: cipher for the author), who certainly didn't have potency of any kind without her.
It was set in a really evocative area of Sweden - but this just clarified how totally functional/unimaginative the direction was. Also, it was an unbelievably sensational/voyeuristic film - again, not necessarily a problem for me, but somewhat disingenuous in a film which purported to be more than 'mere' entertainment, which set itself up as some quite mind-blowing comment on the way we live now. I also get that Stieg Larsson was some kind of bad-ass nazi hunter, but, to be honest, this kind of Nazi Gothic has been done to death narratively (and especially cinematically)...really lazy use of nazism as master signifier, as immediate and idiotic signification of significance.
If this film were made in Hollywood, it would be panned. It was the ultimate middlebrow film: purported to be more than your 'average' thriller (read: to be above cinema), but in fact didn't have a fraction of the craftsmanship or subtlety that supposedly more mainstream, lowbrow films enjoy. From the hype - and especially the hype surrounding the book - i was expecting something with modest ambitions, but which satisfied them artfully and delicately. Instead i got something with grotesque, grandiose ambitions, which didn't satisfy them at all.