Thursday, September 02, 2010


Lisbeth Salander, a young, rebellious, autistic computer hacker, returns to Stockholm to enforce her revenge on her sexually abusive state-appointed guardian, Nils Bjurman. But, soon after, Bjurman is murdered, along with two young investigators who were about to expose a sex-trafficking scandal, in which he was implicated. The police think Lisbeth is the murderer and she goes on the run. Only her old lover and friend, Mikke Blomkvist; her current lover Miriam; her old boxing buddy (real-life star) Paolo Roberto, and her kindly first guardian, Holger Palmgren, believe she innocent. But they can't track her down to help her. As it so happens, it was Blomkvist's magazine that was going to be publishing the sex-trafficking expose, and as he picks up the trail of the gangster Zala, he is led back to Lisbeth, who also believes that Zala was involved in her scandalous abuse as a child. So unfolds the true story of Lisbeth's god-awful childhood, and the reality of the complicity of the Swedish state in her abuse.

I loved Daniel Alfredson's faithful adaptation of Swedish thriller, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. It was a well-acted, competently-made crime drama with a convincing relationship at its heart - that between campaigning journalist, Mikke Blomkvist; and his sometime researcher and lover, Lisbeth Salander. Salander's character - emotionally avoidant, scrupulously fair, kick-ass - is the most sale-able thing about these books. But it also makes them hard to access at an emotional level, without the reader being able to experience her through the softer focus of her friendship with Mikke, her loyalty to her lover Miriam, and her respect for her old guardian, Holger Palmgren. The problem with the sequel, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, is that we don't get enough of the relationships - we simply don't see Lisbeth on screen together with Mikke, or Holger or Miriam, long enough to engage emotionally. And without that, the movie just becomes a crime procedural. Worst of all, because most people who watch this film will be fans of the book, a crime procedural to which we already know the answer. To be fair, partly this is unavoidable. The film-makers have to stick to the broad outline of the book, and to that end, they have no choice but to keep Mikke and Lisbeth apart. But, Stieg Larson gave us compensation in the novel. He gave us the reunion of Lisbeth and Palmgren, something which is skated over very quickly in the film - and most importantly, he gave us the intriguing character of the cop, Jan Bublanski - charged with tracking "murderer" Lisbeth down, but a man who instinctively knows something far more murky has been going down. With only a small role for Jan, and a resultingly small role for the police in the investigation, the movie seemed to have no centre, no momentum, and no interest for me. I was actually bored by it, and was really very disappointed indeed.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE was released in the Nordics, Italy and Spain last year, and was released earlier this year in Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Estonia, Portugal, France, the US and Argentina. It is currently on release in the UK and opens in September in Japan and Singapore.

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