Rape, Incest, and Murder: Just Another Film Festival Night at Gusman

On Saturday night, we saw the American debut of Swedish film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the Miami International Film Festival. Gusman was packed. Not only was the 1,600-seat house sold out, a hundred or so people waiting outside for tickets had to be turned away. (Psst, we warned you to buy tickets weeks ago.)

The new face of feminism: a goth-hacker with a temper.
The new face of feminism: a goth-hacker with a temper.

Of course, it helps that the film was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, one of the most popular films in Europe last year, which was based on a book that sold 22 million copies.

In it, a wayward girl assists an investigative reporter in solving a murder mystery. Using blurred black-and-white photos, computer tricks, and the victim's diary, the two are able to uncover a family's dark secrets (incest and Nazism are two of the less shocking).

But this isn't your typical who-done-it thriller. The heroine, Lisbeth, is a 90-pound, septum-pierced, black-lipstick-wearing cyber-punk who's spent some time in prison and is one hell of a hacker.

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Life has been hard on Lisbeth, but she bites back. On several occasions, half the Gusman audience (i.e. all the women) exploded in cheers as she gets revenge on a scumbug rapist. The film is fairly graphic in scenes of abuse and torture. Yet with Lisbeth as a dark angel of vengeance, Dragon Tattoo manages to also be a feel-good flick, where the bad men of the world get their due. In fact, the original Swedish title of the film was Män som hatar kvinnor -- literally, "Men Who Hate Women." Watch the trailer after the jump.

Dragon Tattoo is similar to another recent foreign-language thriller, 2008's Tell No One.

Both center on unsolved murders in the past that are resolved through

online technology. This Swedish thriller stands out, however, with its

haunting Scandavian-brand coldness.  It's a tone epitomized by Sweden's

2008 vampire thriller Let the Right One In. Each character

seems so calculating and frigid, that we spend the entire film

suspicious of everyone around every snow-covered corner.

The real draw of Dragon Tattoo

is rock star heroine Lisbeth, and Noomi Rapace plays her fantastically.

In the post-film Q&A, the Danish director Niels Arden Oplev talked

about how Lisbeth is one the greatest icons to come out of Sweden and the

difficultly he had in casting a character already so well-loved by fans of the

book. He said that when Rapace came to the audition dressed in her

husband's punk clothes smelling as if she hadn't showered for days, he

knew he'd found his Lisbeth. And he was right. Rapace manages to convey

both a genuineness and unpredictability that keep viewers curious and

exhilarated.

At two and a half hours, the film's obvious pitfall

is that it could use another edit. There's too much background presented on

the characters, probably the result of trying to squeeze details from

the nearly-500-page book into one feature-length script.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo plays the SXSW Film Festival next week before its national release on March 19. It returns to Miami theaters on April 9.


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