Larsson's brutal scenes are of a piece with his theme and his heroine.

The Girl Who Played With Fire

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            This is the year of Stieg Larsson. In The Girl Who Played With Fire - Film II of Book II of Larsson's wildly successful and complex series on contemporary corruption, Swedish style - the characters we met in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are back where they belong, but all is not right with their world. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is again roaming under deep cover, this time to clear herself of a murder charge filed when her fingerprints were found on a murder weapon. Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist and editor of Millennium Magazine is trying to uncover the identities of the principals in a Russian/Swedish prostitution ring. His newly hired investigator has been murdered. It was on that murder weapon that Salander's fingerprints were found.
            Blomkvist doesn't need proof of Salander's innocence. She long ago proved to him her honesty, and he knows that she is driven by a hatred of men's violence against women - a drive she came by at the hands of a horrific father who brutalized both mother and daughter.
Early on, Salander visits her former guardian (Per Oscarsson), a fine man and protector who was felled by a stroke. Salander's slight smile and tender treatment of the old man soften the audience for the violence she will mete out to deserving misogynists as they cross her path. We welcome each shift back to the offices of Millennium where Erika Berger (Lena Andre) , Blomkvist's colleague and part time lover, offers safe haven to him and to the audience.
            As opposed to the gratuitous violence so common these days, Larsson's brutal scenes are of a piece with his theme and his heroine. The damaged girl, finding no help from the police, knows that she alone can prove her innocence. Her rage at the men in her past who objectify women with hatred and disgust fuels her actions as she burrows into the prostitution scandal that infects Stockholm's elite. This violence is entirely personal, and it might have taken a different course if anyone in power had seen fit to expose the corruption among the powerful. That task falls to Millennium and it's editor Mikael Blomkvist who takes it on with Salander's eccentric help. Theirs is a relationship built on unwavering long distance trust.
            The word is out that Hollywood is remaking the Larsson series. They face formidable problems in writing a screenplay for English speaking actors in a story that is Swedish to its very bones. Noomi Rapace suffers more on screen indignity than most actresses do in a whole career, and yet because she is slight and says so little, we are surprised at the strength of her emotions and her physical agility. Her Lisbeth Salander is alone in the world except for that deeply honest connection with Mikael Blomkvist. Beware, Hollywood, when casting those two parts that seem wholly owned by Noomi Rapace and Mikael Blomkvist. There's little room for improvement.


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