Friday, June 8, 2012

The Unintentional Lesson in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Fincher takes a story that was ok but confusing and makes a technically proficient but additionally confusing film. In both cases the confusion is not in the mystery, but the peripheral details.

The story is about violence, often sexual, towards women. And yet the sexual habits of everyone in the book, both commendable and detestable, are edgy and even violent. It is hard to draw the line between what the author thinks is right and wrong. Physical damage is wrong but emotional and psychological isn’t?

In the book, Blomkvist (our hero) sleeps with just about every woman he meets. For some reason I can’t figure out, Fincher only chooses to show—in voyeuristic detail—his encounters with Salander. This is strange because in both the film as well as in the book, our titular girl is a damaged person. She has been hurt and abused and she does everything she can to make herself undesirable. She is an emotional porcupine.

I still can’t figure out what Fincher is trying to say, but the struggle has led me to an insight that is not contained in the book or the film.

The relationship between Blomkvist and Salander illustrates a failure to grasp the paradoxical nature of erotic love. Erotic love as it was intended to be is the most selfless/selfish human motivation.

Blomkvist represents the cultural lie that sex should be only selfless. He is almost cavalier with his sexuality, all the while espousing ideals of friendship and trust. He belittles sex as a simple act that has no meaning beyond good feelings and fun. He is too emotionally immature to deal with the real emotions that a sexual relationship between a man and a woman evokes.

Salander is the other side of the coin. She has sex on her terms, and never allows herself to be vulnerable. Her approach is another way of not dealing with the deeper emotions of a relationship. Both approaches lead to isolated, unhappy people.

A healthy, erotic love will be both selfless—putting the other’s needs and desires before those of self—but also selfish—demanding exclusivity and absolute trust. That is ultimately what Salander discovers and desires by the end of this story, but her willingness to finally open up to another is (at least in her perspective) betrayed when she is led to believe he doesn’t feel the same way.

All of this is more thought than you will get from this film. In typical Fincher fashion, the film is an exercise in making ugly things visually compelling. Pass.

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