Just because something is overpraised by critics for containing a full bucket-load of socialist-feminist tripe and propaganda, that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. Critics here and abroad have been wildly singing the praises of Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published thriller novel - the first in a trilogy – since its publication and are now singing the same praises for the Swedish film as well. And there is not one scintilla of doubt in my mind that a lot of the praise is sparked by the fact that both the novel and the film are one long rant against the evils of a) capitalism and b) men. In fact, the original Swedish title for the book was “Men Who Hate Women,” and, as I recall, every chapter begins with some statistic trying to prove this absurd point. The hero is the sexually passive editor of a socialist magazine. Most of the powerful male characters are rapists. All the villains are capitalists, all the capitalists are linked to Hitler. It’s one big leftist fantasy world.
But again, just because the book and film are overpraised for political reasons, doesn’t mean they’re no good. In both, the plot is a bit familiar and coincidental but it works well enough and provides mystery and some thrills. And the Swedish island setting and the off-beat heroine lift the story above the ordinary. The film, I thought, was better than the overlong and didactic book, expertly condensed by screenwriters Nikolai Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg and well acted all around, but especially by Noomi Rapace as The Girl.
So – one more time: it’s overpraised and it’s socialist and feminist in the most mindlessly stupid way… but not bad. Oh, and very graphic sex-wise, so be warned.
By the way, for those who actually believe, as the title says, that men hate women, I quote the immortal words of John Self in Martin Amis’s fine novel Money: “If men don’t like women, who does?”