Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest ***

Director: Daniel Alfredson
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Lena Endre, Annika Hallin, Sofia Ledarp, Jacob Ericksson
Anders Ahlbom, Aksel Morisse, Micke Spreitz

When Stieg Larsson died leaving behind the manuscripts for what later became the Millennium novels, he inadvertently created a trilogy that thrives and suffers from the qualities it inherited.
This being the last film adaptation can't help but feel awkward because as a movie it has to have a sense of closure but as a story it has so much more to say.
Therefore The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest works specifically as the conclusion of the case that first got Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) together.
In this chapter, Blomkvist must fight the system to prevent Lisbeth from being committed into a psychiatric hospital for the rest of her life.
If the main plot feels completely linear and slightly predictable (Alfredson uses the same directorial techniques he recurred to in the previous installment) this one is more effective because of the larger context in which the events take place, particularly in its vision of Sweden.
What we encounter in this trilogy is a conflicting portrait of a country known the world over for its peacefulness.
So what can we make of an action series that deals with deep corruption, decadence and a complete lack of empathy between young and older generations?
Is this dark vision of Sweden a fabrication of its author or an insider's look at a carefully concealed reality? To try and chose between these options would be to discredit fiction or disbelieve contemporary history; yet the point is that the film's mood evokes this ambiguity and gets us making questions.
Perhaps trying to spice up the humdrum nature of most common careers or maybe Larsson was really on to something...
What can't be denied is that throughout the trilogy, there's a battle between history and the future; Lisbeth's story, if anything else, is made of a conflict between her hatred for her past and her need to avenge it to obtain a future.
In a way, this film is also a fascinating commentary on the way European politics have had a hard time breaking away from traditionalist views. One of the main subplots deals with the discovery of a secret government unit exerting great power even after its official extinction.
The way in which the troubled heroine must face these dying monsters, willing to give up their revered position makes for some compelling drama.
"Reminds me of a Greek tragedy" says a character about Salander's past.
Rapace, once more, is able to reveal new layers in Lisbeth's personality. Her ability to express so much without words is remarkable, in what might be one of the highlights of her performance she delivers the most delicious smile in the most wicked situation.
That you smile along with her is testament to how much she has made the character her own. She's also particularly good in scenes with Aksel Morisse, who plays a sensitive doctor who befriends her and with Annika Hallin who plays her strong willed attorney. It's interesting to see her dynamic with Hallin because the Millennium trilogy is quite male centric, despite having a woman as main character.
This chapter also reminds us about the power of words, in Lisbeth's ability to write her story it gives her the gravitas other characters are trying to take away from her.
What can the movie be saying if it establishes that Lisbeth attains a chance at salvation only after she commits her life to paper?
Despite the fact that each cinematic installment diminished gradually in its thrills, the truth is that it's still a shame that this might be the last we hear of this character.

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