Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Swedish film ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, made in in 2009 was produced by the Swedish production company ‘Yellow Bird’. Directed by Niels Arden Opley; the film is based on the Swedish novel written by Steig Larson. The original name of the film was ‘Män som hatar kvinnor’, which translates into English as Men Who Hate Women. It is certified 18 in the UK because the film entails themes of sex and violence, drama, and nudity. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was nominated for fifteen awards and won five; one of those being ‘Best thriller’ by Empire awards.
Opley has used the beginning of the film to introduce both the main characters: Mikael and Lisbeth. He has chosen to use a series of short clips that cut between both the characters, to explain what is occurring in both of their lives at the current time. Opley has done this create anticipation amongst the audience, for when the two will finally meet in person. This is a generic convention of film making because it creates continuous suspense and causes  curiosity.
One of the most sensational and gruesome sequences in the film is the scene that Lisbeth punishes her rapist for his actions; Opley has used a various number of different shots. Opley has also used generic low key lighting; this effect is associated with the noir  thriller genre and its strong features in the Danish TV series ‘The Killing’.
It is also features in Animal Kingdom (2010) particularly when Pope carries the body of josh’s girlfriend into the darkness.
This effect is used to create a surreal atmosphere and a sense of nightmare. Niels has predominantly used close ups of the guardians tormented face to express his pain and terror.Opley has also purposely done this to emphasise LIsbeths landscape of revenge against her persectuers and to win the audience to her side; in a determined act of revenge, sexually tortures him and tattoo’s him with the words ‘I am a sadistic pig and rapist’
Tilt shots have also been used in this scene to convey to the audience Lisbeths fascist guardian is abusive and show his cowardice.  Tilt shots are an iconic feature in The Third Man to connote, confusion and illusion. Niels Arden Opley has used generic worm’s eye shots of Lisbeth to create a sense of tension, fear and awe. He has also used them to show the audience how they would see Lisbeth if they were in the guardians shoes. It shows them that he feels delusional and confused.
 This same shot is used in Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ of Noodles standing over his beaten up friend. This positioning is used to position themselves with the victim.  The worm’s eye shot is used to connote Lisbeth’s power as does the shot of Noodles, this extreme low camera angle also gives Lisbeth an iconic status.  This shot also shows Lisbeths’ female dominance, as does the shot from Once Upon a Time in America which indicates Noodles and the dominant character in this film.
Shot of Noodles standing over his beaten up friend.
Dark, non-ambient lighting has been used to reflect Lisbeth’s facial expressions – they show no emotion, or sympathy for her guardian; she despises him.  Although Opley has used shots showing the guardian in pain the audience do not sympathise or empathise with him due to his brutal rape of Lisbeth in an earlier scene. The audience also feel this way due to his misogyny corrupt, and has Nazi sympathies. When she tattoos ‘I am a sadistic pig and rapist’ on his upper torso; it shows she has total power. The audience empathise with Lisbeth and understand why she is committing these actions – the guardian and his fascist friends want to put her into a mental hospital and throw away the key. The actions within this scene reflect on the characters background, she is psychologically damaged and has had a troubled past; the extent of this is shown late in the film in a flashback that shows her as a child throwing petrol on her fathers’ face, lighting a match and setting him alight because he knocked her mother unconscious .
Opley has used irony throughout the film by showing Lisbeth lighting her cigarettes with a match rather than lighter – this shows that she feels no remorse for her actions. Lisbeth is the product of abuse; her father is a psychopath who nearly killed her mother.
The film consists of flash backs which allow the audience to relate to time and the disappearance of Anna.  Lisbeth is an enigmatic character, we are not revealed a large amount her past, this dislocation indicates Lisbeth’s past will make the second film of the trilogy interesting- and arouses curiosity. Opley has used flashback technique to enable the audience to become more active as they are forced to try and unravel the mystery which Mikael and Lisbeth are trying to solve. It also gives the audience a change to engage with the character and use their imagination.
Action thriller films such as the Bond franchise, the Bourne franchise, Essex Boys, and Once Upon a Time in America are dominated by men, but this film places the computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander at the central of the action. This film can be intertextually referenced to the film ‘Femme Fatale’ made in 2002 which follows a con-woman as she helps to carry out a diamond robber. This can be related as they are both deviant. Lisbeth Salander is a computer hacker, but her purpose is to unmask corruption; she has a moral code.  Laura within the film ‘Femme fatale’ is head strong and independent but more inclined to be deviant to gain money.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can also be referenced with Kill Bill in the sense both women are independent and both are central of the action, are both independent and both seek revenge on men;  unlike in the Godfather;  a film where women are marginal and represented as wives.  Both of their costumes are boyish and unfeminine which is unconventional for a femme fatale. This film can also be related to the film ‘Tomboys’ made in 2009 which follows a tomboy who is sexually abused and decides to seek revenge, the girl takes her rapist hostage. The difference is that Lisbeth is clever about it and uses evidence against her abusive guardian to avoid trouble with the law. Also Lisbeths costume; her piercings and punk style- is androgynous and doesn’t make no compromise to the whims of fashion. Her costume also connotes her sexual ambiguity in that she likes females but is also attracted to Mikael.

Deviant women reflect progress made by women in Western Europe. Lisbeth unlike Eve in ‘Once Upon a time in America’ has instinct to sense trouble. Eve is portrayed as a femme fatale, but very fragile. Lisbeth is shown as strong and un feminine in biker leather and boots.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo focuses on Sweden’s Nazi past. It shows an isolated country that is politically divided and still living in the shadows of Nazi sympathisers. The film sows a country that is divided into accordance to social class, High class is represented by the Vangers, they live in stately homes, are wealthy and have maids. Their family consists of Nazi members and their family in general does not get along. Gangs/ yobs represent the low class- they are similar to those associated with the UK (Hoodie) The low class are shown as selfish, drunken and abusive individuals that circle in a society or run down areas and rough apartment buildings. It is portrayed by Opley as a corrupt society – this is shown by the muggers in the train station and Lisbeth’s guardian.  Racism and Xenophobia is a big issue In Sweden; not only in the film but in reality. It was revealed by the European Network against racism that Jews within the country were at the largest risk to threat and violence. This links in with the victims with Jewish names. Opley has purposely done this to reinforce reality. The weather is also represented negatively; it is either snowing or raining throughout the entire film.  The snow poses a sense of beauty but also isolation it illumines the lighting.  The snow in this film can be referenced to Fargo (1996) as that is set in the snow also. Snow can cover tracks, and because the film is set in such an isolated location on the island due to the fact there is only one way on and one way off- the bridge, and because it was closed, there was no way off of the island.
Opley has used pathetic fallacy in order to have an impact on the atmosphere of the film; the weather gives a sense of isolation and depressive nature. Sweden is one of the most equal countries towards women- but there is an ugly side explored by crime writers since immigration from eastern Europe after the fall of communism. Books such as the Wallander series by the writer Henning Mankel.
Films such as War horse and Hugo are dominated by males, but this film challenges the generic gender representations and shows the more contemporary view on women being independent and dominating. The Director has used a non-traditional ideology; and therefore has not used the representation of men being the better sex thus challenging convention of War Horse and Hugo. In this film it is Lisbeth that has more moral high ground and influence, Mikael is more vulnerable .Lisbeth is the heroine at the end of the film- typically the male is the hero- but Lisbeth saves Mikael. Lisbeth is represented as the contemporary femme fatale, her dress sense is black which signifies black and darkness; this could be a representation of her past. Lisbeth helps Mikael Bloomkvist solve the mystery which shows she does have some compassion for men who respect women.
Opley has predominantly shown the city at night, which represents it as glamorous but threatening to the audience. Shots of wet streets under street lamps also reference the films generic roots. These shots can be inter- textually referenced to Thelma and Louise when they escape from the car park scene, and also Once upon a Time in America, when Noodle’s has a flashback and shows his dead friends under blankets on the floor.
Throughout the entire film most of the men have something in common, sexist attitudes and violence towards women. The first man was Lisbeth’s guardian who used his authoritive power to enable him to steal her money and get what he desired – therefore he sexually violated her. All the people have attacked both Mikael and Lisbeth are men. Harriett’s brother and Father regularly raped her as a young child.  Opley Is trying to indicate that abuse is a universal problem for all the progress in Sweden misogyny. Opley has set the film in modern society so that the audience can associate with the film, they can compare the corruption and the existing Nazi, racist views.
The island landscape that Opley has used is open, the woods is a generic location that enables the shooter to hide behind the trees without anyone seeing him. Just like a predator hides from prey until they attack. The isolated cabin in the middle of ice and snow is also a very generic location
The demographic showed that the film was rated 4.5 out of 5 and enjoyed more by females under the age of 18. This is due to the way Opley has portrayed Lisbeth, head strong and unique. He has also made sure to portray her as a woman that isn’t dependent on men. She is independent, and a strong role model. Lisbeth is represented not by gender by her actions, deeds and conscience. This film was also enjoyed by boys under the age of 18 due to the action within the film. This film is not targeted at a family audience , this is intentional due to the certificate 18. It is also popular amongst 18+ teenagers because they can identify with the main character Lisbeth. This film was targeted at a niche market, and niche audience- we can tell this due to the fact that it is in Swedish. Foreign language films usually have problems distributing in the UK, but the actors, script, director and cinematography helped this unique thriller gain universal recognition.
User Review: “ To see at Northern and mainly Scandinavian countries, as models of democracy, economic progress and social welfare, it’s quite surprising to see a modern Sweden stained with corruption and unscrupulous tycoons’’ I agree with this because it is set in a modern society, yet a great deal of corruption is present and noticeable. 
A theme of fascism and lack of community is a feature of contemporary Scandinavia. In Crime fiction novels; for example the Wallander TV series and Danish TV series; The Killing. These writers fear Scandinavia will slip back into a past with inequality. The film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is warning Europe about the Nazi sympathisers.

1 comment:

  1. A detailed, perceptive and articulate case study reflecting excellent film understanding of film grammar. At the highest level with some effective inter textual references.
    Mandy also understands debates around representation of gender in film and aspects of ideology.

    A pleasure to read.