The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Film Noir
David Fincher’s 2011 adaption of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo eloquently captures the dark atmosphere of the original novel by Stieg Larsson’s. Based on the first book of the Millennium trilogy, the 2011 film closely follows the original narrative, only altering minor elements for the screen. The Swedish title and the more recent American screenplay, unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young girl named Harriet that occurred nearly 40 years prior. In this crime thriller, Henrik Blomqvist, former CEO of the Vanger Corporation hires investigative journalist Mikael, publisher and co-owner of Millennium magazine. Henrik suspects someone in his family murdered Harriet the day of her disappearance and seeks to know the true events of that day. Mikeal, recently charged with allegations towards billionaire Wennerstrom, loses his life savings from fines he was ordered to pay from the damages and costs. Soon afterwards, he is invited to meet Henrik Vanger where the crime mystery begins (Edward, 2010).
Viewers are introduced to the film’s dynamic style that Fincher is widely acclaimed for. Within the opening sequence, these dissimilar positions of the main characters are intricately established. The opening duration separately introduces Mikael and Lisbeth through a nonlinear chronological order. Fincher uses cross cuts between the distinctive diegetic universes of the two key characters with a back and forth motion. Staring his investigation, Mikeal moves to the secluded Vanger family compound. Soon discovering that Harriet’s disappearance was just not one single line of events, but connected to a series of brutal murders that took place years ago. Fincher bluntly dismisses the use of flashbacks as a means of quick character development. Dialog and various diegetic elements are intricately used within the prompt character introductions. The original narrative and western adaptation are noticeably of foreign origin. Both contain similar cinematic elements seen in European films, as Fincher presents only minor detail if not any character back-story. Not wasting any time, the film focuses towards plot distinction and the characters progress within. Lisbeth’s initial character is established during the prompting of her investigation on Mikeal. Lisbeth’s preliminary characteristics are developed swiftly, depicting her brilliance and keen investigative eye, though a very troubled person. An objective narration is briefly used to introduce her sharp personality, first from a diegetic approach then switching towards the objective narration.
The film opens as Mikeal enters a café, as a television report initially informs us of the allegations that nearly ruined him. Fincher constructs the film towards as a noir, connecting to the original narrative structure.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) resembles the traits and themes of film noir. The compositional tension of the film opposes past from present, old to new and faithfulness versus progressive. The overall narrative is very complex as Fincher includes themes involving sexual violence towards women, a perverted family, distrust of authority and alienation. Within this particular setting and throughout European society, the film speaks to the linage of European ideology. From World War II to the wealthy elite industrialist families, we see influences of war and the postwar traditions. These classical noir influences gave the film its fatalistic and doomed ancestry, passing down power. Consequently leading towards a family that wants to overcome authority and escape past crimes they inherited. One of the distinctive characteristics of this film, setting it apart from some traditional film noirs, is how truth is uncovered throughout. Lisbeth serves as both private eye and feminine fatale who uses technology as a means of revenge and investigation. Her character alone uncovers the past, comparing it to the present as Mikeal puts the pieces together. With her technical competency she can create a digital truth, speaking to the film’s ideological schema. Her character also helps to convey the thematic elements concerning alienation. She does not fit in with her surroundings but eventually looks for some sort of worldly connection, taking away the initial character tropes within her development. Lisbeth first seems to serve as the story’s anti-hero, secluding herself from society. She haunted the male predator, making sure he will never hurt another woman. As the film progresses, she gradually seeks more human connection. By the end of the film Lisbeth has turned into Mikeal’s partner and lover and eventually transforms into Mikeal’s protector. In addition the film’s plot also is similar to a classic film noir (Kaplan, 1978).
Mikeal’s character is the private eye that is found in film noir, and Lisbeth acts as the femme fatale in which the two work together to solve the case. During their investigation we are introduced to various characters that exploit the themes of Nazism and violence toward women. Classic noir shows characters thrown towards corrupt systems in which they act towards resistance. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo uses several themes to link the past and present. Sexual violence links past to present throughout the film. Seen through the public eye to be overly overt and extremely controversial, the rape of Lisbeth is explicit in nature in Fincher’s on-screen depiction. But this scene successfully manipulates emotions of the audiences and thematically renders the meanings conveyed in the film.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of America’s most defiant thrillers with the construction of this a gripping tale. Both the old and new collide to signify the truthful realism within the film. This is a film that can educate an audience of an immense narrative disclosure.
Edward, P. (2010). Modern film noir: the girl with the dragon tattoo. Retrieved from
Kaplan, A.E. (1978). Women In Film Noir. BFI Publishing.