Something which truly impresses me about Swedish filmography- or perhaps it's only that of directors Niels Arden Oplev and Daniel Alfredson, as I'm not that familiar with Swedish films in general- is the understated simplicity and elegance with which it tells its story. The film versions of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire" are simply exquisite because they do not fall prey to the maudlin sentimentality and looming soundtracks that often characterize Hollywood blockbusters. Salander is not sexed-up; her awkwardness, innocence and frightening violence are all represented matter of factly. This fact struck me most when watching the torture scene in "The Girl Who Played With Fire." It is not night outside. It is not thunderstorming. There is no sense of classic horror to the scene. The scene is kept the same as it was in the book; Salander is simply a girl going about her business, acquiring the information she is looking for. It is the fact that there is no clashing crescendo of trumpets or instruments, that her predicament is not weirdly exaggerated but is presented as a simple truth, that affects us so powerfully. We relate to Salander because our emotions have not been manipulated at all. The film tells a story but it doesn't tell us how to feel about it. While in Hollywood, Berger's open marriage and her affair with Blomkvist would have been played up big time, it's hardly mentioned in the Swedish film at all. And Lisbeth's violence is not glamourized- it's not action-popping glorious and therefore unbelievable- but is factual.
Here's the torture scene I am referring to:
See how factual, clean and clear that scene is? Notice the sunlight, the lack of terrifying music, and the simplicity with which Salander goes about her task. That elegant and horrifying truth gets to us because it is presented so honestly, without any glamour or any dressing it up.
Compare to the scene where we see another painted face talking- compare to Hollywood.
There's good reason that The Joker is a comic book character whereas Lisbeth Salander can be seen as a real human being. Notice that the Joker needs to be in a background suitable to his violence- in a bare prison cell, with harsh fluorescent lights upon him, and eerie music building up to a feverish pitch- in order for us to take the scene seriously. Not so with Salander.
Here's an excellent example of where America gets it terribly wrong:
This film should have been the story of the horrors of physical abuse. It should have been simple, understated, elegant, featuring Rihanna and Eminem with Rihanna as the abused victim and Eminem as the abuser. Instead, we get pretty people trying to act out some sort of love story- Megan Fox and Dominic Fee- which is patently absurd and not even remotely true to how domestic violence actually plays out. We get Rihanna in reddish-pink hair and pink claws baring a lot of skin outside the artfully designed burning house. We get Eminem in some random field in the middle of nowhere. And what they've done by presenting this travesty, this utter mockery of a music video, is killed the power of the song. They've alienated the listeners. The reason we were interested in "Love The Way You Lie" was because we felt that the people who were singing it really knew what they were talking about. Anyone who has listened to Eminem's "Kim" knows that he has the vicious feelings of a potential abuser. And we all know about Chris Brown and Rihanna. It should have been them acting out this video- and acting it out in a way that left us sickened, disgusted and horrified by the trauma and pain of domestic abuse. It should have had the understated elegance of the scenes in Daniel Alfredson's movies, not the blowsy color of a whore decked out in cheap polyester, rayon and a thick layer of clown makeup.
Alas, here in America, we've been given this arty, pathetically inaccurate portrayal which makes domestic abuse look kind of sexy- and which makes houses burning down kind of cool.
Way to go, Joseph Kahn. Great job directing a film that's going to make every girl in America wish she were abused- as long as it's the abs-baring Dominic Fee who wanders around punching the odd mirror and mournfully consoling her with rose-bearing teddy-bears.
It's about as tasteful as pretending rape is fun.