Based on the late Steig Larsson’s internationally renowned novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the highly anticipated Scandinavian thriller Män som hatar kvinnor (Men that hate women) is certain to have its fair share of fanatics clambering for a seat when it opens in Australia in March, 2010.
Despite having not read the book before seeing the film, I found director Niels Arden Oplev’s rendition so wonderfully debauched and engrossing upon leaving the cinema I hurriedly joined the fan base (exceeding eight million world-wide) and bought and devoured Larsson’s novel – the first in his Millennium series.
Män som hatar kvinnor follows Mikael Blomkvist, (played by Michael Nyqvist), the inoffensive journalist and publisher of Stockholm’s Millennium magazine. After losing a libel case against Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström, Mikael ends his tarnished career with Millennium only to be promptly hired as a private investigator by Henrik Vanger, of Vanger industries – a wealthy and tyrannical family-owned company of aged Hitler youths and Aryans.
Before facing the prison sentence resulting from the Wennerstrom case, Mikael’s mission is to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of Harriet, Henrik’s beloved great-niece, forty years prior. Relocating to the remote Vanger homestead, Mikael is quickly enveloped not only by the complexities of Harriet’s disappearance and the nuances of the blood-thirsty Vanger caste, but in the life and limbs of a tempestuous, prying hacker – the said girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander.
Working undercover for a major security organisation the precocious Lisbeth (beautifully portrayed by barely known actress Noomi Rapace) uncovers information about Mikael relevant to the Wennerström case during a routine hacking escapade. Subsequently, she tracks him to his newly appointed role with the Vanger’s to share imperative clues regarding the mystery of Harriet.
The androgynous Lisbeth appears as cliché feminist character: adorned with leather boots, piercings and a turbid history of violence and abuse. When paired with Mikael they create an unusual double-act. Lisbeth is revealed as the motorbike riding, fire-wielding ‘super-hero’, while Mikael ends up her trusty side-kick in a ‘whodunit’ mystery with enough twists and turns to keep you enthralled until the credits roll.
Oplev leaves the audience with an enticing cliff hanger which one assumes is a necessity to keep fans wanting more Millennium movies. But a warning to the
faint of heart: some of the permeating misogynistic themes are far from palatable on the big screen.
That said, there is talk of a Hollywood remake and it will be interesting to see whether the omission of the distinct Scandinavian landscape and language will produce anything other than unsophisticated, pornographic thriller. We wait with interest.