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Watch Out for Those Island Getaways

If you can't get away to an island, maybe the next best thing is to pick one of the island movies recently offered in your neighborhood theaters. The Dresser has seen Shutter Island--Martin Scorsese's film that is set in a mental institution on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, The Ghost Writer-- Roman Polanski's who-dun-it set on Martha's Vineyard, Precious--Lee Daniel's award-winning indie film set in Harlem (come on, Readers, New York City is on Manhattan Island), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--Danish director Niels Arden Oplev's noire thriller set on Hedeby Island off the coast of Sweden. While she finds much to admire in The Ghost Writer and Precious, she's not so fond of the storyline in Shutter Island though the acting Leonardo DiCaprio and the scenery holds the attention up to a point. However, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo compares in the Dresser's experience to Chinatown, the classic film by Roman Polanski. (Sorry, Roman, The Ghost Writer was good but it pales in the long shadow of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) In other words, Tattoo is worth seeing multiple times.lisbeth_E_20091204105216.jpg

If you have been resisting Tattoo because it is in Swedish, the Dresser says don't sweat that experience. The subtitles are short and to the point but the Dresser was amazed how familiar Swedish seemed. When they talk about murder, you hear in Swedish mörda. Daughter is dotter. Good morning, very similar to German, is god morgon. Then, of course, there is the toast--Skol.

Blomkvist-Salander.jpgWhat's the film about? It's about an investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist) who has been framed and will enter prison in six months time but he also has been tapped by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), a wealthy man who wants the disappearance of his niece solved. This is a 40 year-old cold case. The hook is the missing niece babysat the journalist because the journalist's father worked for the uncle back then. The spice to the story is a tougher-than-nails computer hacker who, after mostly cyber stalking Blomkvist, gives him the lead that cracks open the case with unexpected horrors. The hacker is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a.k.a. the girl with the dragon tattoo.

So, you are worried about breeching your film criteria? The Dresser will go down the list.

Action to the point of near death? Check.
Sex that leaves you gasping? Check.
Love story? Check.
Psychological depth? Check.
Focus on gender issues? Check.
A young hottie? Check.
An attractive older man? Check.
Contemporary innovations? Check.
Historical references of current day interest? Check.
A Hitchcockesque drawing room scene? Check.
Revenge in the name of justice? Check.
Outcomes that surprise but do not dupe? Check.
A storyline so engaging, you never look at your watch. Check.

There's more but you will have to check out the acting, the original music, and cinematic details yourself so the Dresser doesn't have to rave about that too. And one more thing, there is no thread left dangling. While this movie has the psychological wallop of Precious, the viewer goes home unfettered. No worries about leaving with a load of Ingmar Bergman bleakness and despair. So this is the island movie the Dresser recommends if you can't get to the Caribbean or some other place of redemption.

Ned Balbo's poem "Queenright" provides a metaphoric flavor to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


A thriving hive is "queenright." But not
any queen will do. Problems in a hive
are often traced back to the queen and,
still further, to the errors of the beekeeper.

Perhaps in haste you caught and killed your queen
Then acted slowly while the colony
Moved fast to fill her place. Or, having split
The hive, one queen for a diminished realm,
None for the rest, you brought to those abandoned
One they drove off, forced down, or devoured.
Many mistakes are possible. Think hard.
Perhaps your queen is missing, lost in flight,
Murdered before she mated, fallen ill
Without your knowledge, while some lookalike
Successor rules the court. Or else you sought
Unwisely--she seemed young and vigorous--
Some queen of doubtful lineage to serve
This hive desperate to thrive queenright again.

by Ned Balbo
from Lives of the Sleepers

Copyright © 2005 Ned Balbo


Comments (2)

Patti Abscher:

Your review is succinct and zings right in on why you like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I didn't think I wanted to see it...but now I do!

Thanks for the checklist. That was fun,

Wonderful poem by Ned B. These books which become films, I have read. Cannot imagine the films of Shutter or Dragon. But can only hope for the pockets of imagination the page provides gleam with visuals.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 26, 2010 9:48 PM.

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