Film: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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.

Girls Who Hate Guys

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?”

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  • Kaori Chan

    Somehow, I knew instinctively to avoid this one. I just can’t endure the Left’s narrow view of the world or their constant insults anymore, even if a project is well written / performed. That, and the fact that critics laud works such as this, but ignore more important ones like, ‘Soraya M.’ It’s a very unjust double standard.

  • Gerard Knorr

    Gawd, how do you slog through? Before I decided/realized that stuff was motivated by malice rather than stupidity, I could handle it, but now that I know it’s aimed straight at me, and that they mean every word, I simply can’t do it.

  • Lars Walker

    I’m enjoying the books, but from what I’ve read of the movie, I’ll definitely give it a pass. I find one point of agreement with Larsson–we both loathe contemporary Swedish society. Just from opposite sides of the room.

  • Lars Walker

    Love the poster, though. The look on the guy’s face is quintessentially European. “What was I thinking, drinking that much? Now here I am alone with a woman. What do I do? I hope she doesn’t expect anything of me!”

  • Nick Carter

    My liberal wife was stoke on this book. It came highly recommended. I got to page 7 or so. They managed to not insult my gender so far. Except for the intro quote about how guys are rapists.

    Out here in San Diego there is a cofe shop that hosts bands on the UCSD campus called the Che Cafe. They spend an awful lot of time there reminding the guys on campus that they are all a bunch of rapists and that every woman they meet is afraid of them.

  • M

    I enjoyed the books. I was very entertained, and like any good book(s) the character(s) stayed in my thoughts after I put the book(s) down. I too found them more as critical of contemporary Swedish society and not really a leftist cringe rant. I find more leftist cringe political tripe reading a New York Times sports article. My advise, worth your time and nickel.

  • G Wash

    Dear Mr. Klavan,
    a lot of Swedish industrialists such as the Wallenbergs did cooperate with the Nazis, despite that they’re trying cover it up by trying to turn Raoul Wallenberg into a saint.

    Also, Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, was a Nazi in his youth, so I’d say there is precedent there.

  • David Combs

    I was prepared for some socialist slant going into the film (it is Swedish after all) but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Not all the capitalists in the film are evil. Henrik Vanger, the ex-CEO of Vanger Enterprises, is a moral and caring old man who believes in Blomkvist enough to hire him. I’ll definitely check out the next two films when they come out.

  • Metroplexual

    Movie was way better than book a lot of extraneous crap was eliminated.

    I agree that the books are over rated but like the reviewer says they are a pretty good read. I have read all three and look forward to the movie versions. There is definitely a negative vibe through pure contempt for the male characters. The bad / tough guy villains and even the good guys seem wimpy compared to Lisabeth but she is colder by far than most of them men.
    Seems the lefty bent is moderated considerably by the bureaucratic wrong doing and cover ups of Swedish government and media establishment. I give a solid B to the books and an B+ to the movie.

  • sqt

    I picked up the first book because I had heard so many people go into ecstasies over it, but I couldn’t get into it at all. Thought it was a bore.

  • Mark

    I’ve read the first two installments in the trilogy and have seen both films , and yes they are compulsive page turners and the movies were alot of fun but what I came away afterwards, besides the above points that it’s a wholly leftist screed against capitalism and men is that Swedish society and it’s multi level’s of Statist bureacracy is a nightmare and unfortunately American society is being done over in the same sort of way. Just his descriptions of Lisbeth’s guardianship was utter madness to me. Reminded me of a documentary I saw years ago about people stuck in the frustrating American welfare system. It’s a total hell. Why anyone would want the state having this kind of control over them is lunacy! Without even knowing it Larson actually made a great argument for a conservative, get your big goverment out of my life, agenda even as he ranted about Capitalism.

  • Johan

    Andrew, you’re more right than you know about this. In Sweden, Larsson was infamous for his ties to communist groups and his biased journalism. In a country dominated by socialism, that was more of a blessing than a curse. His live-in partner is currently embroiled in a bitter (and hypocritically greedy) battle for his inheritance against his estranged relatives (they are winning).

    The reason she’s not getting a dime, is because the will she signed for him has him dominating everything he owns to a local communist party. As for the book? I’m not impressed. Predictable, leftist pulp. I don’t know how well the translators improved it, but the original Swedish reads like bad tabloid journalism (what Larsson actually wrote), but just like you said: As long as it’s far-left, it’s going to be cheered.

  • Growltiger

    Saw the movie, read all three books. The movie was, as Andrew writes, well done and well acted. Worth seeing tho’ the graphic sex is cringe inducing.

    Of the three books, the first and last are good — “The Girl Who Played with Fire” not so much. That one got repetitious and boring about 3/4 of the way through. I skipped a lot of the blather.

    The Leftist propaganda is administered with a trowel, so becomes amusing, silly and childish. I laughed out loud at his constant references to Nazis. Sort of like Don Quixote and his windmills. (Safer though because windmills still exist in great numbers) I found myself wondering if poor little Sweden has become a hotbed for Nazis or whether this poor guy is just plain delusional.

    The constant sexual predation of males in authority also became laughable by the third book — one realizes the writer is serious, but it’s just too much. Poor Lisbeth is like flypaper for sexual perverts.

    For a Lefty, Steig is inconsistently. Lisbeth absconds with billions of kroner from a Swedish capitalist, but, since she stole the money, paid no taxes and, in fact, buys a 26 room apartment. By becoming a thief, she no longer is sympathetic — just one more crook loose in the world

  • JervisTetch

    Before I saw that poster, I had no idea that Andy Levy was in this movie.

  • billc

    Maybe you can help me Mr. Klavan, is Roger Ebert completely blind to his own silliness in reviewing movies. John Nolte at Big hollywood wrote about Eberts review of the movie Kick Ass. Ebert gave it 1 star because of the character hit girl. Then he gives The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Girl who played with Fire 4 stars. I believe you pointed out the extreme level of violence directed at women and girls in the first movie. What are your thoughts about this liberal critic.

  • Former SSG


    Funny, as an American (conservative) woman, I got different things from the books. (I haven’t seen the movie, but will.)
    capitalism in the book was corrupt, but repairable through the system, eventually. Good people had to work to make it happen. Sound familiar?

    As to women, bad things happen, particularly to institutionalized women. By the end of book three, Lisbet had won. Triumph of individual over state. Done outside the parameters of the law, but the civil rights laws as portrayed in he books were good laws not being enforced due to a shadow intel agency working outside the law.

    I know what the Swedish system was like as to differences with the US, and expected them to be represented in the books. But the human side, and the characters were not much different than those in your books or Lee Childs’ books.

    I guess you see what you want to.

    Thanks for “listening!”

  • Former SSG

    PS I like your books!