The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This originally appeared in BCN issue 100.

Film review: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a film featuring one of the most interesting and well-developed bisexual characters in recent cinema history.  Based on the book “Män som hatar kvinnor” (Men Who Hate Women) by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, the psychological thriller is a delicious mix of intrigue, mystery, crime, sex, and technology.

The girl with the dragon tattoo is Lisbeth Salander, an intelligent and resourceful investigator and computer hacker with a dark history. Lisbeth, expertly played by Noomi Rapace, comes across as an anti-social androgynous goth punk with no regard for social niceties. People on screen have a hard time knowing how to interact with Lisbeth, but in the audience you just can’t help liking her. She is strong-willed and forceful with a radical sense of justice and righteousness. She also has tender moments of withdrawal and emotional vulnerability. As much as the film shows Lisbeth as an oddity and a social outcast, it also makes it clear that she is an incredibly beautiful and sexy person.

Lisbeth’s sexuality is not directly mentioned. Along with almost everything about Lisbeth’s personal life, it remains thoroughly ambiguous throughout. When asked questions about sex and romance, Lisbeth is decidedly enigmatic. From the screenplay it is clear that Lisbeth sleeps with both women and men, but no label is ever applied. I think there is a risk that people might come away from the film with the wrong interpretation: “Abused girl doesn’t trust men, therefore has relationships with women, but really just needed to find a good man”. I don’t think that is what the author intended at all, especially since a significant plot point in the sequel revolves around Lisbeth’s relationship with a woman. I’ll have to read the book to learn more about how Larsson views Lisbeth’s sexuality.

The film will appeal to geeks, especially geeks who use Macs! Apple products are highly visible in the film. Everybody uses a Mac, and you get some close-ups of Apple Mail, Photoshop, Word for Mac and some dubious hacker software!  There’s this great moment where Lisbeth needs 20,000 kronor for a new computer and is told, “7,000 is enough for a computer!” But no, it’s not enough! Later on you see Lisbeth triumphantly striding out of the Apple Store carrying a brand new MacBook after getting more money! I checked the Swedish Apple Store website: a MacBook costs from 11,995 – 23,995 kr!

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a gruesome film, both visually and psychologically, reaching far into the dark depths of the human psyche.  The violence is raw and deliberately uncomfortable: at a few places I thought “Oh, no, I don’t want to see that” because it is by no means done tastefully or artistically.  Still, there are plenty of heart-rending moments, the thrill of the investigation is compelling, and the conclusion of the story is deeply satisfying. It’s well worth seeing, and I’m looking forward to the sequel!


Get a copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo from