Män som hatar kvinnor (2009): Swedish ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – literally mean ‘Men who hate women’) is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. Great story, great characters, very intelligent and thoughtful.  This version of book was made as a Swedish film in 2009, and turned out to be a classy hit in whole Scandinavia.

This thriller based on the novel of the same name by Swedish author/journalist Stieg Larsson. It is the first book in the trilogy known as the Millennium series, published in Sweden in 2005. The director is Niels Arden Oplev. By August 2009, it had been sold to 25 countries outside Scandinavia, and had been seen by more than 6 million people in the countries where it was already released. The protagonists were played by Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace.

It’s one of the rare two and half hour film that set the motion relatively thumping and there isn’t much a pace, but it keeps your eye on the screen, and is such a film  the plot is so engrossing, the characters so rich and complex, the mood of gloom mixed with glimmers of hope, packed with moment of jerks and surprises that its ending never occurs to you. That’s true even as the miasma steadily lifts and the movie approaches the end into a wholesome and dark conclusion.

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The Director Niels Arden Oplev at his simplest story telling attribute introduce us with an investigation into a forty years back of the missing-person. The Wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) hires investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to do what the police couldn’t find out what happened to Vanger’s favorite niece, Harriet (Ewa Froeling), who disappeared off the family’s island compound in 1966 and is presumed to have been murdered. The prime suspects are all 30 members of the Vanger clan, who had gathered for an annual meeting. The motive? Vanger’s inheritance, which, in the absence of a direct heir, would have gone to Harriet. The only way on or off the island, by the way, is a bridge, which, due to a traffic accident, had been closed on the day of the 16-year-old girl’s disappearance. The setup is a very old world and its classic “locked-room” mystery of the sorts made famous by John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie and other masters of vintage detective fiction is what you are able to see it in here. The unraveling, however, could not be more modern…

The film sets in December 2002- Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), publisher of Millennium magazine, loses a libel case involving allegations he published about billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerström (Stefan Sauk). He is sentenced to three months in prison and a hefty fine. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a brilliant but damaged surveillance agent and hacker, is hired by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the patriarch of the wealthy Vanger family, to investigate Blomkvist. Vanger then hires Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who vanished on Children’s Day in 1966. Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered by a family member.

Salander, who was ruled mentally incompetent as a child, is appointed a new legal guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), after her previous guardian suffers a stroke. Bjurman, a sexual sadist, forces Salander to perform fellatio on him in return for the money she needs to buy a new computer; he withholds the full amount she has requested. At her next meeting with Bjurman, he beats and rapes her. Having used a hidden camera to record Bjurman raping her, Salander returns to take her revenge, torturing him and threatening to ruin him unless he gives her full control of her life and finances. She then uses a tattoo gun to brand Bjurman’s abdomen with the message “I am a sadist pig and a rapist”.

Blomkvist moves into a cottage on the Vanger estate, and meets the Vanger family, including Harriet’s brother Martin (Peter Haber) and cousin Cecilia (Marika Lagercrantz). Inside Harriet’s diary, he finds a list of five names alongside what might appear to be phone numbers. He visits police inspector Morell (Björn Granath), who informs him that his investigation team had been unable to decipher them. After viewing photographs taken during the Children’s Day parade, Blomkvist sees Harriet’s facial expression change suddenly just before she leaves and, after getting photographs taken from the same side of the street as her, comes to believe that Harriet may have seen her murderer that day.

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Blomkvist learns that Salander had hacked into his computer, and hires her as a research assistant. Using her access to Blomkvist’ s computer, Salander learns that the numbers in Harriet’s diary are references to verses in the Book of Leviticus. Together, Blomkvist and Salander connect all but one of the names on Harriet’s list to murdered women. They are all Jewish names, which intrigues Blomkvist, as the Vanger family has a long history of anti-Semitism. During the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander become lovers. They suspect Henrik’s reclusive brother Harald (Gösta Bredefeldt) to be the murderer, as the two other Vanger brothers had already died by the time Harriet disappeared. Salander searches through Vanger’s business records to trace Harald to the crime scenes, while Blomkvist breaks into Harald’s house, believing it to be unoccupied. When Harald attacks Blomkvist, Martin appears and saves him. He escorts Blomkvist to his home, where Blomkvist reveals what he and Salander have uncovered. Martin drugs him. In the meantime, Salander’s search of the company accounts points to Martin and his late father, Gottfried, having been jointly responsible for the murders. She returns to the cottage to find Blomkvist missing.

Blomkvist wakes to find himself bound in Martin’s cellar. Martin brags about raping and murdering women for decades, but denies killing Harriet, insisting that she disappeared before he had the opportunity. As Martin is in the process of strangling Blomkvist, Salander appears and attacks Martin with a golf club. While she frees Blomkvist, Martin flees in his car. Salander gives chase on her motorcycle. Martin drives his car off the road and Salander finds him trapped in the wreckage but still alive. The car goes up in flames, and she does nothing to save him.

Blomkvist realizes that Cecilia’s late sister Anita was the near-double of Harriet, and that some of the photographs taken on the day of Harriet’s disappearance show Anita, not Harriet as previously thought. Blomkvist and Salander discover not only that Harriet (Ewa Fröling) has been using Anita’s name, but she is still alive in Australia. Blomkvist flies there to look for her. He learns the truth about Harriet’s disappearance: that her father and her brother had repeatedly raped her; that she killed her father by drowning him only to find herself being blackmailed by Martin; and that her cousin Anita had smuggled her away from the island. Blomkvist persuades her to return to Sweden, where she is reunited with her uncle.

Salander’s mother, living in a nursing home, apologises for not choosing a “better papa” for her- Salander visits Blomkvist in prison and gives him new information on the Wennerström case. After his release Blomkvist publishes a new story on Wennerström in Millennium, which ruins Wennerström and makes the magazine a national sensation. Wennerström is soon found dead. His offshore bank account in the Cayman Islands is raided; the police suspect a young woman caught on CCTV, whom Blomkvist recognizes as Salander in disguise. The film ends with Salander, dressed very smartly as she exits her car, walking along a sunny beach promenade.

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The making of ‘Män som hatar kvinnor’ is steady, suspenseful and  Director Oplev lets it unfold in its gentle and non-interrogated fashion, from Lisbeth’s subdued rage and a calm dispense of her cold revenge, in a pitiful and  unnerving moment- all in all a series of still photos bringing alive a girl dead 40 years ago.

Talking about the two protagonist- Nyqvist carries himself with a very extricate, vulnerable journalist as his nuances are entertaining to watch from his observation of data points of deducing the information delicately to the clues found. While Rapace is unforgettable as Lisbeth. Her resolute and tough  impassive looks are very modern and distinctive, both in the scenes of she being raped and during abuse or the tremors of isolation and fears, with skillfully lighting a cigarette and knees pressed to her chest. The film is just as much about her evolution as a person and her tech savy hacking skills, seeking revenge without remorse, but honing her expertise to exist, at least partially, on the right side of the law. Oplev adds his own stamp to the visuals, but when all is said and done, Rapace steals the show in every way. I only wish the ending, after the mystery is solved but before the loose ends of Blomkvist’ s tale.

This movie recalls the experience of 60’s thriller with its steadfast shoot in the very natural gravity and so the fans get to watch this  with a charming characters around, and yes this movie should be watched with the parental guidance and is a lime green rated, entails heck of obscenity, violence, horrid crime scenes, nudity, sex, rape and smoking, all in large measures……However “Män Som Hatar Kvinnor” as a movie I can’t think of many crime thrillers better.

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The Team

  • Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
  • Produced by  Søren Stærmose
  • Screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg
  • Based on the novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson
  • Starring: Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace
  • Music by Jacob Groth
  • Cinematography: Eric Kress and Jens Fischer
  • Editing by Anne Østerud
  • Studio: Yellow Bird; Music Box Films; Alliance Films; Lumiere & GAGA
  • Distributed by Nordisk Film
  • Release date:27 February 2009
  • Run time of 152 minutes
  • Country:Sweden
  • Language: Swedish

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