The Girl Who Played with Fire
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Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation.

September 18, 2009

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Better than the book because Rapace shatters the screen

Reviewed by bquestad

The Girl who Played with Fire � Movie Review


Better than the book because Noomi Rapace breaks the glass ceiling

It�s not every day that a film is as good as or even better than a great book. Daniel Alfredson, director, and Jonas Frykberg, screenwriter, have accomplished a surprise. Despite being made for European TV, despite its lack of theme development and despite its sensationalism of Lisbeth�s sex rendezvous, �The Girl who Played with Fire� film is excellent.

Stieg Larsson�s book version of this second part of the Millennium Trilogy would receive a realistic book rating of 4 out of 5 because of the difficulty in following and completely understanding all the plots that webbed out from the driving action. The close to 1,000 page book is so anxious to mirror its themes of control and dominance that some of its subplots, like governmental corruption, got a little confusing.

Revolutionary Female Force

Audiences world-wide were sold on the first film, �The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo� because Lisbeth Salander, played by Noomi Rapace, despite being beaten down repeatedly, gets back up with greater strength each time. The attempts to destroy her only serve to strengthen her resolve.

Lisbeth is the 2010 female icon, eclipsing the classic Superman, Skywalker and Ring Trilogy heroes with realistic depth, angst and suffering. Following the classic stages of Joseph�s Campbell�s universal journey of the hero, Lisbeth Salander inspires and mesmerizes the viewer. Despite her nightmare childhood and seemingly insurmountable challenges, through cunning, strength, and personal talents, Lisbeth always rebounds with greater cleverness and strength to overcome.

In book/film 2, �The Girl who Played with Fire,� this resilience is tested further, and that becomes the focus of the film more than any theme or universal message.

Jonas Frykberg, the screenwriter, was able to cut through all the extraneous subplots of Larsson�s winding tale, stick to the major action and deliver a suspenseful thriller that rivets the viewer. Noomi Rapace�s strong screen presence, with her dark piercing eyes and small, unsmiling, often silent mouth command the viewer�s allegiance and awe.

It is through this character development that Rapace, nailing the spirit of Stieg Larsson�s somewhat androgynous character, honors both the book and the greater purpose of Larsson�s work in bringing to focus a revolutionary female force.

Why not 5 out of 5?

It all has to do with theme development. While the book version of �Fire� gets overly detailed in additional and sometimes not fully explained plot details, particularly the government corruption angle (not covered much in the film), the movie only focuses on the literal plot and not the great Larsson themes. This is unfortunate.

Perhaps the third installment of the Millennium Trilogy will round up all the loose ends and slam-dunk Larsson�s greater theme and purpose. But �Fire� does not significantly follow up or develop the fundamental themes in �Tattoo� to make it strong enough as a stand-alone movie or a great, life-changing cinematic experience.

Larsson Core

At the core of Larsson�s work is his perception of the basis for human failure. Leave it to the Scandinavians, home of Edvard Munch�s �The Scream,� to lift up the rock to reveal a slimy, creepy, dark reality. His life�s work revolved around man�s inhumanity to man and primitive, instinctual drive to survive through power and control.

Development of physical strength has its most obvious benefits and the most obvious recipient would be those who were outwardly physically weaker. This is the origin of the male/female conflict that Larsson examines through a multi-faceted prism in his trilogy. It is through this drive to dominate and control that Larsson exposes the roots of bias and prejudice that end up manifested in a tangled web of corruption and destruction in current society.

What is interesting and ultimately so universally appealing about his protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is that Larsson takes this concept of dominance and control in new instructive directions. Omitted from the film are allusions to Lisbeth�s interest in advanced math and her phenomenal success with chess, showing Lisbeth�s own attraction to dominance and control of the playing field.

And this control is what Lisbeth, an early victim of violence, is determined to never lose again.

Larsson�s instructive, ironic homily on a deeper level, is that when men take away a woman�s access to choices, to control, there is a reciprocal self-destructive karma for the perpetrator.

The Bottom Line

Yes, the film follows a simplified slice of the book action, and it does it very well, despite having a different director and screenwriter than �Tattoo.� The production is professional, fast-paced, and gripping. In addition, book club members world-wide have reported that reading both �Tattoo� and �Fire� beforehand enhanced their viewing of the movie, so be warned.

Whatever the case, don�t see this film without seeing �The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo� (now available on DVD) first, and if you have the time and ability, read each book before seeing each film. Larsson is a detailed writer whose webbed plots and theme development dramatically enhance these fine productions.

Director: Daniel Alfredson

Writers: Jonas Frykberg (screenplay) Stieg Larsson (novel)

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Mikael Nygvist and Lena Endre

Country: Sweden

Language: Swedish with English subtitles

European Release: September, 2009

UK Release: August 27, 2010

US Release: July 2, 2010 in 7 theatres in NYC and Chicago.

July 9 � 16, at selected theatres: -soon/the-girl-who-played-with-fire/

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