To go in the dark with a light is to
know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight, and find that the dark, too
blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
— Wendell Berry
The Millenium Triology by the Swedish writer Stieg Larsson has sold more than 14 million copies in the United States alone. Reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, we are compelled to acknowledge the dark side of human nature and the manifold mysteries of personality.
The Swedish movie versions of these three crime stories did quite well at box offices around the world and that in itself offers testimony to the filmgoing public's fascination with the series' themes of family skeletons, misogyny, racial prejudice, rape, and the irresponsible use of power in high places. Now David Fincher (The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is the director of the American film adaptation of the first book in the series. Instead of casting a major actress in the pivotal role of Lisbeth Salander, he chose Rooney Mara, who appeared in the opening scene of The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend.
In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo she registers on our senses as the ultimate outsider with her androgynous appearance, her incredible technological skills, her photographic memory, and her gruff and intense dislike of most people. Compared to Naomi Rapace who played Lisbeth in the Swedish adaptation of the trilogy, she is less scary, rough and tough, but softer in her erotic connection with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). Compared to his counterpart in the Swedish stories, Craig is less vulnerable and tender in his relationships with women.
Fincher is a skilled filmmaker who has demonstrated with Seven and Fight Club that he can work wonders with walking on the dark side; those films dealt with the brutality, violence, and hatred of human beings at their worst. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth suffers a brutal anal rape at the hands of her state-appointed guardian Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen); she later exacts a grim and angry revenge upon him, reducing him to a blubbering bag of tears.
Sad to say, most people believe in revenge and the ancient equation of an eye for an eye. When we are hurt or suffer at the hands of enemies or bullies, we are immediately propelled by our culture or advised by others to do something to make them suffer — if only to recover a sense of power. The film addresses this dynamic in an indirect way but the darkness of Lisbeth's retaliation is not a pretty thing to watch. Her violence mimics his and only keeps her from looking within. Forgiveness, say all the world's religions, is the best way to break the cycle of the wounded and wounding but very few seem to practice this virtue.
A final thematic strand which is handled well in both the Swedish films and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the omnipresent role of technology in the lives of Lisbeth and Mikael. He uses it extensively in his investigation, and she is a wizard able to wrest secrets from individuals and corporations. Lisbeth also knows how to use this technology to invade others' privacy. By the time she meets Mikael and he offers her a job as his research assistant, Lisbeth knows more about him than he does himself.
Technology is a tricky tool that enables us to disarm enemies, harm reputations, and manipulate data for our own benefit. This film gives Fincher a chance to expand his purview on the shadow side of computer technology that he began with The Social Network. Taking a clue from Wendell Berry's poem, we describe him as an ambitious and creative director who travels by "dark feet and dark wings."
Special features on the Three-Disc Combo Blu-ray/DVD include: a commentary by director David Fincher; Vangar Archives; "Men Who Hate Women"; Characters: 1) Lisbeth Salander - casting Salander, the look of Salander, Salander test footage; 2) Mikael Blomkvist - casting Blomkvist, Daniel Craig on film acting, dressing Blomkvist, investigation (stills) photogallery; 3) Martin Vangar – Sellan Skarsgard on film acting, psychopathy, bondage, torture, wrapped in plastic, stills of set design; On Location: 1) Sweden - Stockholm Syndrome, Stockholm's Tunnelbana, The End, Picture Wrap, 2) Hollywood - casting Armansky, Armansky audition, thinking evil, rape/revenge, Blomkvist's Cottage, Martin's House, Salander's Apartment; post production; in the cutting room; and a montage of visual effects.