When you have a movie titled “Men Who Hate Women”, you pretty much know what you are in for, but the more ambiguous title of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo might just throw you off the scent. The original Swedish title is definitely more appropriate to the themes of the movie. It is a movie about men who hate women. There is no doubt about it. It’s a movie about the subjugation of women and the dominance of evil men. Throw in a forty-year-old mystery and an interesting and compelling movie is made.
The subject matter is dark in a way that few American movies dare to be (no wonder it’s not an American movie). But that darkness sheds a light on the problem and prominence of the destruction of the female psyche by brutal and evil men. There are many evil acts committed in this film that are not for the faint of heart, but the film is an incredible look at said evil in a way that will get the audience talking about themes and ideas that they otherwise wouldn’t.
The fact is, this is a well-made character driven mystery-thriller; a type of film that is a rarely made. Every character is fleshed out and their life is not one-note, nor insignificant to the story as a whole. It was almost so much so that every character could have been the focus of the movie and the meaning and impact would not have been lost.
The most intriguing character of the film is the girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander. She has been subjugated by men constantly throughout her life and has retaliated in ways other women in the same situation would not. She is a strong woman that has been destroyed on the inside. She doesn’t let anyone inside and has built up a strong exterior shell that shields her from most devastating hurts. It’s a sad and lonely life that she has created for herself, all out of necessity and it’s surprising and heartening when she finally lets her shell crack a bit. She’s the type of heroine that the audience can root for and empathize with. She’s a fascinating character study on her own while being essential to the plot.
Every character is important not only to the plot, but thematically as well. This is the rare movie that melds plot and theme seamlessly. It really shows the character and depravity of the human race. These depraved men have all been shown the way of evil by another and have fed into it all. They are men that need reconciliation and redemption, but it never comes. The evil that they commit on women are almost unredeemable – they commit horrors in the name of a cause that are bone-chilling; horrors that should never exist in the world. Unfortunately, they do exist. Can these horrors ever be atoned for?
The basic plot and structure of the film is pretty ordinary, but the way the film develops character and theme around that plot is extraordinary. It’s amazing to see an uncompromised look at the baseness of humanity. There are evils committed and evil men who hate women, but this movie suggests that women don’t have to be defined by the cruel acts heaped on them; they can overcome and transcend them. These horrific acts will always be a part of them, but they aren’t who they are.