WARNING: VIOLENCE AND MATURE THEMES
When I first heard that David Fincher was making an English remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I was extremely excited. That excitement was not because I had read the Millennium trilogy or because I was a fan of the Swedish films, it was because I was a fan of the man behind some of my favorite films (Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac etc). A bit of cursory research about the source materiel led me understand that this film would be about the hunt for a girl who goes missing and could not be found for a few decades. I also learned that the actual Swedish title of the book translates to The Men Who Hate Women. The title of the book caught my attention. I had to know what this story was about. I did not however read the books or watch the Swedish films.
This was before a time where I actually watched international cinema or read books. I would not even watch this film in theaters to be honest. Indian theaters are super high on censorship and I knew a lot would be lost if I saw this on the big screen. I patiently waited for the film to come out on home video. I took a close look at the reviews for the film and even though the critics seemed to be raving about it, the audiences were split. There were complaints about the film being slow and no matching up to the Swedish originals. I took those opinions with a grain of salt and kept my excitement levels up.
The film finally made its way to home video and I was first in line to get the film. The film started off with a somber Christopher Plummer talking about a portrait with a small plant in it. A few seconds later, one my favorite opening credits started off. I knew I was in for a treat listening to Karen Oh’s rendition of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song which was laced with some of the most inventive imagery I had seen at the time. I was instantly hooked. The plot unfolded and the setup to the story at large was being made. I was listening into it quite intently when one Mr. Dirch Frode and another Mr. Dragen Armansky were in talks about the male lead Mikael Blomquist played by Daniel Craig. Frode asks to meet with Armansky researcher. The build here is extraordinary. Armansky talks about Lisbeth with equal parts reverence and frustration. The titular girl parks her motorcycle and takes off her helmet. Her unique hair-do on her seemingly frail silhouette caught my eye. Armansky keeps talking over the image of Lisbeth walking through the halls of Milton Security and finally after Frode relents he calls in Lisbeth for a sit down chat. The cold, disturbing score added with the reaction of Frode when he first lays on her make for an exquisite shot. The audience is welcomed to a world they have never seen before.
The two plots of the film moves independently of each other for a while longer. Mikael continues his investigation and makes breakthroughs while we watch Lisbeth Salander’s life from close quarters. We realize that she has deemed incompetent by the country of Sweden and has a guardian assigned by the government. She seems quite antisocial and is not the usual definition of a woman. She is however an exceptionally intelligent person working as a researcher for a security firm and also a world class hacker. The subplot with her losing her beloved first guardian to a stroke comes about and on the heels of this she is assigned a new one. It is extremely clear that the new guardian does not have the same rapport with her as her previous one did. He freezes her out of her money and demands sexual favors in exchange for access.
He forcibly makes Lisbeth makes her perform fellatio him in his office before he writes her a cheque. Lisbeth, as any woman would be, is enraged but she has no way out. She cannot go out and complain about it because if the tag of incompetence which has been hung over her neck for the longest time. She conjures up a plan to film him when he forces her into fellatio again. She gets a small fiber optic camera and mounts it on her bag. She calls him up and asks for money again. He tells her to visit his home and pick up the cheque. She obliges thinking she has a situation under control. Little does she realize things are about to get far worse.
As soon as she strategically places her bag she gets a strong whack over her head. When she comes back into consciousness, she has been handcuffed to the guardian’s bed face down with her mouth gagged. She gauges the situation by which time her legs get cuffed as well. A helpless Lisbeth is then raped by her guardian in one if the most disturbing scenes on film.
She quietly accepts her cheque after the incident and walks home limping. She stands in the shower with blood pouring out of her. She then goes to a tattoo parlor and gets a tattoo of a cuff on her ankle. It is reminder of the incident and also to never let it happen again. She plans her revenge. She gets herself a taser and a tattoo needle. She calls her guardian asking for money again. She visits his home. He makes an attempt to apologize for his actions but she is no mood. As soon as he finishes his sentence, he gets a taser to his neck and is knocked out cold. When he comes back, she has been tied to the foot of his bed and is left lying on the floor. A war-painted Lisbeth stands his front of him. The guardian realizes his day of reckoning has come. She stands towering above him.
She plays the video of her being raped. She turns him to his side and penetrates him a metal dildo. She lays down that law and commands him to keep the reports, which say she is becoming sociable, coming and also that he is to follow abstinence for life. She says if anything were to happen to her, the video of her being raped would spread across the internet like a virus. She says if she were to find out that woman walked into his home, she cuts herself off and kicks the dildo twice which jams it inside him. She walks up close to him and asks him a very specific question. She asks him what the reports he has read about her suggest. She tells him that they suggest she is insane and if he were to cross her again, she would kill him.
She concedes however that being abstinent is harder done than said. She offers to lend a helping hand with that. She sits herself down and tattoos “I am a rapist pig” across his chest. With her amateur skills blood and pain were a given. Her supposed guardian passes out by the time she is done with her artistic masterpiece.
The instant she got off him and revealed what she had done, I knew I had my favorite fictional heroine of all time. She wasn’t and nor would she play the victim. She wouldn’t take injustice lying down. She didn’t need anyone else to help her. She goes through the film never even mentioning the injustice she goes through. She is a badass. All she is needs is herself. Even though I do not endorse her actions, I am glad she did what she did.