The Social Network
Beginning with 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher would plunge himself into the world of digital filmmaking, utilizing it to his advantage and augmenting his already outstanding body of work. By using this (relatively) new form of filmmaking, he would delve into an artificiality which, ironically, would be able to parse out the truth and lies in our everyday lives. Read the rest of this entry »
Jesse Eisenberg walks down a sparsely lit corridor next to himself in an extended tracking shot. He walks next to himself. He peers over to check how alike the man next to him is. But he hates that man. And he hates himself. The irony. In Richard Ayoade’s adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novella The Double, Eisenberg shows how painful self-loathing can be and how it can drive someone insane. Labyrinthine and Freudian, it grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go.
This entry was posted in comedy, drama, Horror, thriller and tagged Barton Fink, David Fincher, David Lynch, Dogville, Eraserhead, Jesse Eisenberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Lars von Trier, Mark Zuckerberg, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Cera, Nicole Kidman, Richard Ayoade, Sigmund Freud, Submarine, The Double Life of Veronique, The Social Network, The Squid and the Whale, Zombieland.
And a big thank you for joining me in the final installment in what is undoubtedly the most arduous post I’ve ever written. Hope you enjoyed!
Thanks for bearing with me on this trip down my personal memory lane and through my favorite films of all time. For the final installment, you’ll encounter: silence, sin, singing, greed, comedy with a hint of nihilism, a Mark Twain quote and comedy and tragedy, a shave, loneliness, an exposé, post-Cold War allegories about reunification of Europe, oil, jealousy, cosmos, commentary on reality TV and horror’s impact on society, 191 screenplay pages in a brusque 92 minutes, men and women being friends (or not), more neo-noir, adolescent adults, and a couple song and dance numbers, including “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. And now, drum roll please….
81. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Directed by Jonathan Demme
Arguably the greatest thriller ever made, Jonathan Demme’s part procedural, part look into the mind of a monster contains some of the greatest performances in the last three decades. The confidence exuded from Jodie Foster makes her newbie FBI agent Clarice Starling convincing and real. Anthony Hopkins’ performance as the sociopathic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, meanwhile, is simply unforgettable. Demme’s is a film that somehow taunts the audience. Lecter looks into the soul of the audience and asks, “Have the lambs stopped screaming?” For us, Demme’s film has left such an enduring legacy who knows when we’ll finally hear the silence of the lambs.
82. Sin City (2004) | Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Sin City is probably the best adaptation of a comic book we’ll ever get. Visually inspired by the series as well as taking its own cues, it’s a style that drips with the same nihilism as the original series. Rodriguez adds his own spin to things, but he remains faithful. It’s harsh black and white recalls film noir, but the splashes of color make the film thrilling, even disturbing at times. It’s a garish and artificial environment, a sadistic tribute to film noir.
83. Singin’ in the Rain* (1952) | Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
I recently got to see Singin’ in the Rain in theaters and on the big screen, and it reminded me of how much I adore this film. It was my first time viewing the big, colorful sets, the outrageous and incredible musical numbers, and the impeccable choreography projected on the big screen. Seeing it again made me realize it is truly amongst the greatest musicals ever made for the screen. The film utilizes a specific element, even gimmick, to perfectly portray a changing time in film. Silent films are becoming a thing of the past, and when people began to experiment with sound, they wanted to do musical revues. Taking some of those same songs from the time make the effort utterly fantastic. It’s a gimmick that works specifically in its favor. The musical numbers are, of course, unforgettable; from the hilarious Donald O’Connor doing “Make ‘Em Laugh” to the iconic rain drenched title song, there’s never a sour note in Singin’ in the Rain. And, oh, what a glorious feeling!
84. The Social Network (2010) | Directed by David Fincher
Every time someone calls The Social Network the “Facebook Movie”, I have a strong desire to… poke them, really hard. With an ingenious script from Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin, David Fincher takes what could easily be a boring, childishly soapy topic and makes it memorable. The film is so character and dialogue driven, you can track the development of every character merely by their lines. Although Fincher’s direction is clearly there, he takes a back seat, utilizing restrained, understated techniques and letting his characters tell the story. I don’t think I’ve ever been as upset as when The Social Network did not win Best Picture at the Academy Awards when it was nominated a few years ago. Kudos to Jesse Eisenberg for portraying an egghead douchebag who may or may not have stolen an idea and making him relatively sympathetic as a character. Though, my favorite part is at the beginning, when Rooney Mara breaks up with Eisenberg. “Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster.” Priceless. Well, more like it’s worth a billion. And that is indeed cool.
85. Some Like it Hot/The Apartment (1959/1960) | Directed by Billy Wilder
Although Wilder may have been better known for some of his darker, fairly nihilistic films like Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, both Some Like It Hot and The Apartment are his human masterpieces. Even though it took several years for Andrew Sarris to finally admit that Wilder qualified as an auteur, Wilder’s humanistic characterizations of the people in his films are all present in both of these films. Some Like it Hot is the most overtly hilarious, with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag and a delicious Marilyn Monroe with a ridiculous name. And while the jokes come fast and furious, the sense of foreboding is still there, while gangster chase after the two male leads. Meanwhile, Wilder examines loneliness and adultery in The Apartment, where Lemmon returns and plays a solitary sap that lets out his apartment for his philandering colleagues and bosses at work. Although it can be incredibly romantic, Wilder’s trademark nihilism is always there, more prominent in The Apartment than in Some Like It Hot. Regardless of the darkness of these films, both are masterpieces of pathos, comedy, and tragedy. But, hey, nobody’s perfect.
86. Star Wars* (1977) | Directed by George Lucas
After Jaws, Star Wars paved the way for the epic blockbuster movie. I guess, despite my loyalty to the series, Star Wars is to blame for the impulsive, mindless adrenaline fests that are so often produced today, over films with thought and integrity. It may be a little ironic, because as big budget as Star Wars may seem, Lucas imbues his film with the same kind of mythmaking and psychology found in Joseph Campbell’s study of mythology and the hero called The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Lucas also alludes to one of his favorite directors, Akira Kurosawa. The epic space opera still retains the same thrill and excitement it gave back when it was released in 1977, and has left an enormous impact on my life.
87. Stranger Than Fiction* (2006) | Directed by Marc Forster
It took me three years to formulate a coherent essay on Stranger Than Fiction, because there was so much I wanted to say about it and, unlike me, I was not able to fully articulate my feelings. Had I been reductive, it would have amounted to “All the feels!” The story of a man who happens to be in a story offers itself to philosophical discourse, but just as much as that; the film explores the creative process. This is thanks to Zach Helm’s absolutely brilliant screenplay (which I on my bedside table). I commend Will Ferrell for his lucid, raw performance. Yes, people, the man can do drama, and damn well. But, hey, the entire cast is outstanding. Emma Thompson’s struggling writer, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s one of a kind anarchist baker, and Dustin Hoffman’s extraordinarily unique literature professor are all incredible in the film. To delve further into the mind of Ferrell’s Harold Crick, his thought process is illustrated on the screen by way of a computer generated user interface. Almost as if Apple made him, ever neuroses, quirk, and decision made is shown on the screen. Stranger Than Fiction is a rich, beautiful portrait of creation and life, with the right mix of comedy and tragedy.
88. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) | Directed by Tim Burton
Is it a horror film? Or is it a musical? Whatever it is, it’s brilliant. Tim Burton takes Stephen Sondheim’s dark comedic Broadway hit and creates a Gothic masterpiece, nightmarishly realized, and led by a powerhouse performance from Johnny Depp. There’s a deep, dark soul to this Sweeney Todd, and the film is eaten up by the bleakness and morbidity. Towards the end of the film, though, there is true emotion and pathos. The music is as engaging as ever, retaining the wit Sondheim intended. The darkened, desaturated palette adds extraordinary mood to the film. Pieced together, Sweeney Todd is one of the best films Burton has ever brought to the screen.
89. Taxi Driver (1976) | Directed by Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese’s portrait of a ticking time bomb is one of the most memorable films of all time. Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader together created one of the most disturbed characters on screen. An icon of loneliness and manifestation of mental seclusion, Robert De Niro’s legendary role of Travis Bickle remains one of the most lauded performances of all time. My best friend wrote an essay about the use of sound in the film. For Scorsese utilizes everything in his power to accentuate the feeling of loneliness and solitude. The isolation penetrates the heart, a success on the filmmakers’ part. It’s a masterwork on loneliness.
90. This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006) | Directed by Kirby Dick
I know it’s kind of a shame that this is the sole documentary on the list, but you end up being rather limited. Despite being fairly one sided, you can’t deny that Kirby Dick’s expose of the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board is provocative and extremely entertaining. Part of it is a history lesson on the MPAA, going through the many films that have been denied certain ratings, have been given certain ratings because of content bias, etc. And the other part is a fun expose, as Dick and a private detective attempt to unmask the anonymous “regular parents” on the board that advises you what to watch. Terribly fascinating and eye opening, This Film is Not Yet Rated is a very funny look at the restricted and the general.
91. Three Colors Trilogy (1993 – 1994) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Although hailed as masterworks of the art house world, Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy, made up of Blue, White, and Red, the colors of the French flag, are far more entertaining than their daunting title would suggest. A lot of people hear “art house” and recoil, but Kieślowski’s films are full of splendor and capture the audience’s attention for their entirety. Blue, with an incredible performance from Juliette Binoche, is the anti-tragedy and the most moving of the trilogy; White is the anti-comedy, quaint and amusing; and Red is the anti-romance, lush and elegant. All three films will affect the way you look at life. Yes, they are life altering. Liberty, equality, fraternity.
92. There Will Be Blood (2007) | Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
There Will Be Blood was the first film from Paul Thomas Anderson that I saw, and even then, I knew I was dealing with a master. With Daniel Day-Lewis’ awe-inspiring performance as a greed driven oil man, There Will Be Blood transcends cinema altogether at times. It’s enormous in its power, each frame and image burned into one’s brain after seeing it. The film is full of deep religious imagery, and Daniel Day-Lewis is totally uncompromising. There Will Be Blood is a drama that shakes you up for good.
93. Toy Story (1995) | Directed by John Lasseter
A story of greed, narcissism, and attempted murder. Yes, people, I am talking about Toy Story. Underneath the sweet story of friendship is something very diabolical, even seedy and nihilistic. The film was originally fashioned and written as a much darker story, but Disney insisted it be happier. Woody was less likable, Buzz was more insane, and their constant head butting was more verbally violent. Even though it was sweetened up extensively for kids, there are still strains of the original darkness in there. Revolutionary when it was released because of the technology that was used, Toy Story is an exceptional film, not merely an animated one. Its story is tight and incredibly interesting, and the voice acting is exemplary. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are both perfect in the film and Woody and Buzz. For the time, the scope of the film is pleasantly huge. Tackling an entire world of play. Toy Story is absolute perfection.
94. The Tree of Life (2011) | Directed by Terrence Malick
It seems far less important understanding or analyzing the film than it is simply basking in all of its beautiful, daring, and undoubtedly striking spell. At its core, the film may (or may not) be about a family in Texas, as a child begins to rebel against his strict father. But, throughout that story of man versus nature, Terrence Malick dares us to sit and watch as the universe comes together before our eyes. It can be a turn-off for some, but one has to admire his audacity and the sheer scope of the challenge. Brad Pitt’s fierce storm of acting and Jessica Chastain’s effervescent mother nature is a wonder to behold. Love it or hate it, The Tree of Life certainly is a wonder.
95. The Truman Show (1998) | Directed by Peter Weir
As you might be able to tell, I admire funny actors who can do serious work. Evident in my selection of Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell stepped out of his goofy shoes and gave us a human character to be remembered (or, it should be, as the film, I feel, is tremendously underrated). Jim Carrey does a similar thing in The Truman Show, which has the plot of a very existential episode of The Twilight Zone. Truman’s life is a reality show, and once he starts to realize this, he encounters a crisis, trying to discover who he is and how much of his life was a lie (all of it, basically). It’s beautifully moving film, with a star turn from Carrey. Laura Linney, who plays his “wife”, is also very good in the film. But, again, it’s Carrey who, er, carries the film. Yes, the script is grand, but Carrey instills the character with pathos and humanism, only bouncing back to his usual goofiness when it serves the character. The Truman Show primarily pushes aside the obvious commentary on reality TV in favor of getting to the heart of its protagonist.
96. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) | Directed by Wes Craven
Even before the Scream films, Wes Craven was getting at the heady commentary of horror films and their impact on the public with the best film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Having departed from the series since the second film, Craven returns with a chilling and almost prophetic film. In a way, the humor and the story itself is even more self-aware and self-referential than even Scream. There are scenes that refer back to its own screenplay. Freddy Krueger comes back as a manifestation of the darkness that the films show, and the lead from the original, Heather Lagenkamp, worries about the effect the films will have on her son. It’s shockingly smart for Craven to explore this side of horror; the consequences of graphic violence seen at an early age and the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Flawed though the film is (its third act is kind of lackluster), it actually proves to be one of the most interesting horror films ever released.
97. His Girl Friday (1940) | Directed by Howard Hawks
Although it’s been remade a couple of times, and itself a remake, His Girl Friday is a legendary screwball comedy. If you think you’ve heard fast paced dialogue, you haven’t heard His Girl Friday. It makes Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue sound like it’s going through a drive through at a fast food joint. The screenplay, based on a play called The Front Page, was somewhere over 190 pages, but its smooth 90 minute running time is thanks to the way Hawks directed the dialogue. Characters talk over one another, finish one another’s sentences, and interrupt one another. This fast paced realism is jarring at first, mostly because one doesn’t expect for the dialogue to be traded so quickly. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are perfect together; the former sabotaging the latter’s upcoming wedding. Through the dialogue, Hawks also examines the unscrupulous tactics of reporters all the while. It’s Broadcast News for the 1940’s!
98. When Harry Met Sally… (1989) | Directed by Rob Reiner
Sometimes it is incredibly jarring how on the nose a film can be about a certain subject. When it comes to men and women, few films get as close, or as funny, to the platonic relationship as When Harry Met Sally…. Nora Ephron’s near perfect screenplay accurately and insightfully looks at the dynamic between men and women, especially when they are not in a romantic relationship. I watched this film on a loop last summer, as I found the subject startlingly relevant to my personal life. It made me wonder about my own platonic relationships with my female friends. One must be honest though; When Harry Met Sally, regardless of how well it was written, set up a majority of the tropes one sees in romantic comedies today. It’s really been copied too many times, and never in a satisfying way. (You can also thank Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night for some of those clichés.) Nevertheless, with incredibly witty dialogue, fantastic performances from Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, and some very memorable moments, When Harry Met Sally is a phenomenal romantic comedy. As to whether men and women can just be friends? I posit yes.
99. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) | Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Blending a universe all his own and a couple others that were already world renowned, Zemeckis took the opportunity to really experiment with technology and storytelling, and the results are incredible. Here, cartoon characters interact with humans, and while the comedy runs amok throughout the film, it is at heart an experimental film noir. The cleverness the film has to offer is fun and amusing, and it’s truly spectacular to see some of the most well-known staples of the cartoon universe pop up. Once again, story takes center stage, reminiscent of the hardboiled noirs of yore. Though, the technical aspects are outstanding. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Contains some of the cheekiest humor ever, and its technical aspects as well as its story make it a fantastic film.
100. Young Adult (2011) | Directed by Jason Reitman
I sure as hell hope that I don’t end up knowing, or turning into, Mavis from Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s righteous and darkly hilarious Young Adult. Charlize Theron has the looks to have played a high school bitch, and she fits right into the role, almost as if she’d been playing it since birth. Cody’s razor sharp screenplay not only contains painfully funny dialogue, but even more painful examinations of disappointment and maturity, or lack thereof. She is as stuck in the past as one could ever be, manifesting her desires in her dying young adult book series. Joined by a stellar Patton Oswalt, maybe these guys should have paid attention during history, as they ended up being doomed and repeating it.
101. Young Frankenstein (1974) | Directed by Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks’ terrific parody of Universal Monster movies is amongst the greatest comedies ever made. Parodying everything from Dracula to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and, yes, Frankenstein, the film is an absolutely perfect tribute to those older films. Mel Brooks’ classic has an enduring legacy, and some of the greatest gags on celluloid are in this single film (“Frau Blucher!”). It plays with the sensibilities of the studio era, such as the ridiculous sets and the star system. Young Frankenstein is a classic to behold.
So, what do you think? Let me know! Thanks for reading!
This entry was posted in Take One and tagged Billy Wilder, David Fincher, Gene Kelly, George Lucas, His Girl Friday, Howard awks, Jason Reitman, John Lasseter, Jonathan Demme, Kirby Dick, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Marc Forster, Martin Scorsese, Mel Brooks, Paul Thomas Anderson, Peter Weir, Rob Reiner, Robert Rodriguez, Robert Zemeckis, Sin City, Singin' in the Rain, Some Like It Hot, Stanley Donen, Star Wars, Stranger Than Fiction, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Taci Driver, Terrence Malick, The Apartment, The SIlence of the Lambs, The Social Network, the Tree of Life, The Truman Show, There Will Be Blood, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Three Colors Trilogy, Tim Burton, Toy Story, Wes Craven, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, When Harry Met Sally, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Young Adult, Young Frankenstein.
Her eyebrow is pierced. So is her nose. So is her lip. And so are her nipples. Her eyes are sinister. Her face is as cold and sharp as the winter wind in Sweden, and she is the female heroine equivalent to one of those inexplicable cultural zeitgeists that somehow sweeps nations the world over. Lisbeth Salander, the intense, almost punk-like female protagonist of the best-selling Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, is reincarnated in David Fincher’s own adaptation of the first novel in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. No, Fincher’s film is not a remake, it is a re-adaptation. Many questioned the point of making an American version of the Swedish film (which they spoke about erroneously), and without Fincher, there would have been no point. Though overtly a mainstream exercise in sadomasochistic filmmaking, it would have been nothing without David Fincher’s distinct brush strokes on the film. It unavoidably draws some comparison to the Swedish incarnation, starring Noomi Rapace, but it is best to think of it as an entirely separate entity. As aforementioned, this is a re-adaptation. And it is one hell of a re-adaptation at that.
Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is called upon by the wealthy patriarch (Christopher Plummer) of the Vanger family to find the murderer of his dear great-niece Harriet. The cast of the Vanger family is like if you put Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaums into a Swedish horror film and gave them hard liquor. At the same time as Mikael begins his search for Harriet’s killer, damaged hacker Lisbeth Salander is trying to make ends meet when her caretaker suffers a stroke and she is, once again (it seems) deemed incompetent, unable to take care of herself, and in need of a social worker. As the two storylines intertwine and cut from one to another, Mikael and Lisbeth eventually team together to create a bizarre Mulder-and-Sully-esque relationship.
It is difficult to shy away from comparison between Fincher’s film and the Swedish film from 2009, so I shall keep it short. In essence, the two are not comparable at all. Yes, here and there, you find various things to compare, mostly because they are based on the same story, but the two films offer very different experiences. That is honestly the most one should say if one is forced to compare the two: they are different films and offer different experiences.
Fincher’s film is distinctly Fincher-esque. From the slow tracking shots outside of a door with the sounds of a wailing young woman, to the scene composition of two men and a snowy outside chat (medium long shot showing the sides of both men with the door to a luxurious house in-between), to the yellow-green color palette of the past (as in the 1950’s) and the past (Lisbeth and Mikael’s past, being their former jobs and interiors of their jobs); it has David Fincher written all over it. It is this unique and singular style that separates the film from its Swedish counterpart. That is not to say that the Swedish film is not stylistic at all; it just was not directed by David Fincher. Rather than employing the same kind of kinetic energy from Se7en and Fight Club, or the romantic style of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the style in Dragon Tattoo seems more languidly paced and thoughtful, almost as gloriously lucid as his film Zodiac. Though, Fincher has honed his skills since then, and it seems far more polished. Granted, as polished as it is, and perhaps because of the film’s inherent mainstream nature, it is not Fincher’s best film. Unique and inventive to a point (as much as you can be with such a sprawling story), it just is not his best. It is plenty excellent, plenty enthralling, but not his best. And I hope he is fine with that, because this film is far from a waste of time.
When speaking about how the Swedish adaptation and the Fincher adaptation offer two unique and different experiences, I mean, primarily, this: the Swedish version is a long, drawn out, sprawling, and epic mystery procedural film. It sifts through evidence and suspects like the best episode of any procedural drama on BBC. The American rendition, however, offers elements of this but seems to ruminate more on the basis that it is a character study. It concentrates and focuses its energy on Daniel Craig’s Mikael and Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth. The film digs deeper into both characters’ psyches and motivations, and does so in the most expert way; the only way that David Fincher would allow it. You can think of his previous films as character studies as well, films that examine closely the actions of their protagonists with a Kubrickian microscope. And what Fincher and screenwriter Steve Zaillian observe is satisfying and a little bit unnerving.
Enter Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist sued out of his brains for libel, and thus running away from his demons. He is, as Salander says to the man who hired her to do a background check on him (for the sake of the Vanger family, who would then employ Blomkvist himself), “He is who he presents as.” But, of course, he’s a little more than that. The affair he’s been having with his co-editor has broken his family and thus his relationship with his daughter is fractured, and then fractured even a little more by her interest in going to a Bible camp. He is not an Atheist, he is a journalist; a man who has seen and written about far too much evil within the world (mostly corporate evil, we are led to believe) to acknowledge anything else than the written word of an honest reporter. Daniel Craig, who may be most recognizable to some as Bond, James Bond, sheds that suave exterior in place for a more hardened kind of character. Though, Craig seems to be still adjusting to this kind of procedural mystery story, almost as if he is not quite used to the feeling. Nevertheless, he does play the part fairly well, a part which requires him to be anything but that British spy. His look, a mix of seedy yet rugged handsome, fits Blomkvist in that he is the kind of man you want to trust, but would find yourself having a little trouble doing so at first.
And we have our heroine, our unorthodox hero, Lisbeth Salander. She has many holes in her body, and not just the physical kind. Maybe a little brutish and barbaric, she is not familiar with a constant state of happiness. The fact that she has a checkered history is written all over her. She does not wear this fact with pride. She wears it with the same kind of demeanor that one of her shirts reads in the film: “F*** you, you f***ing f***”. She does not give a damn, clearly. Or maybe she does. What I like about Rooney Mara’s performance is that she it is able to embody the coldness and harshness of the character that is obvious and, maybe, overstated to a degree. But she is also able to tone that part of the character down a bit and fit in a sense of vulnerability. There are moments in the film where her defense is down and where she honestly looks like she has been hurt, both physically and emotionally. Even with the cost of probably getting kicked in the groin, you kind of just want to give her a hug. There’s a fragility, an angelic quality behind the piercings, strange hair, and layers of makeup. This is who she is now, and she may have created it for herself as an escape, but Mara’s beautiful and intense performance makes it more evident that she was not always this way. (Luckily, this lovely performance is a completely different taste from that of Rapace’s. Something akin to pierced apples and pierced oranges.) The androgyny of the character is a fascinating aspect of the film. She does not look too polished or Hollywood as one may have feared, and the cheekbones Mara has allows for a complete transformation. Mara takes on the role with force and dignity all the while, and her emotional acumen for the character is deftly shown in the film at all times. In short, yes, I do think she deserved her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
The look of the film says Fincher. One may note this is the second film in a row that David Fincher has done that features heavy typing. The interiors are mostly sparse and immaculate, with the interior lighting reflecting either a cold blue or a stinging yellow, both of which are reminiscent of the look for The Social Network. Jeff Cronenweth (who has worked with Fincher previously on Fight Club and The Social Network) takes the sterile and frigid motif of immaculate, minimalist space and applies it to the film. The shots are marvelous, going back and forth between the grotesqueness of Lisbeth’s lifestyle to the perfection of the Vangers. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score is frighteningly good, utilizing techniques that, for better or worse, send shivers down the audience’s spine.
Regarding the brutal and much talked about rape scene, I found the techniques used quite fascinating. It is one of the most viscerally harrowing scenes I have watched in ages, at once repulsive and yet captivating. What David Fincher does here is he makes the scene at times explicit and graphic and at others, completely suggestive. It is in these suggestive moments, where sound design plays a critical role, that the film becomes most uncomfortable and unpleasant. Because the viewer is unable to see “everything” as it were, the worst is left to the imagination in the same way that the absolute worst was left to the imagination in the castration scene in Hard Candy. Playing with facial expressions, sound effects, and musical score is the way to be completely sadistic to your audience, and it is done in grand fashion. Fincher, though, does not allow the audience to revel in these moments. One step and one cut at a time, he does not linger. Which makes the audience question which would be worse: the cutting away from expression and sound from one to another or if it would have been worse to have it linger on one long shot for the entire time and witness the entire thing like a fly on the wall? I am most satisfied (or at least as satisfied as one can be during a scene like this) with Fincher’s interpretation.
The main title sequence is extraordinary. Using visual motifs from the film, Lisbeth is projected in animated and oily glory, with wasps coming out of her pupil, the Dragon Tattoo she has on her back coming alive, the phoenix of her soul bursting into flames, many a USB cord throttling her, and the horror of male assault being suggested at various turns. It is a brilliant title sequence, one that pretty much sums up who Lisbeth is as a person/character. Reznor and Ross’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” plays during this, with the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O on vocals, and it screams and wails, almost as if Lisbeth herself were singing. The song fits, though I do not know why. The cover employs a much more electronically manipulated sound, and that seems to fit the theme of the film. Lisbeth is a harbinger of death, angst, pain, and fury, just as the song seems to suggest.
David Fincher’s vision for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an interesting, unrelentingly ferocious film. It combines the book’s languid, slow pace but includes the brutality of the characters and their psyches. Rooney Mara makes a star turn as Lisbeth Salander, a performance that is able to show both the character’s fury and fragility. While it may not be Fincher’s best work, it is nonetheless an example of his ability as a director. Here, Fincher directs a film as multifaceted as its female protagonist. Sinister, damaged, pierced, fragile, and fantastic.
Main Title Sequence, feat. “Immigrant Song”
This entry was posted in adaptation, drama, mystery, thriller and tagged Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, David Fincher, female heroine, Fight Club, Hard Candy, Immigrant Song, Karen O, Led Zepplin, Lisbeth Salander, Men Who Hate Women, Mikael Blomkvist, Millennium Trilogy, mystery, Noomi Rapace, rooney Mara, Se7en, Sweden, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Game, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, thriller, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Zodiac.