April has been quite a month already for serial killers in the arts, with films like "Red Riding Trilogy" and "The White Ribbon," and Stephen Chalmers' photo project on mass murderers' "dump sites" at Light Work Gallery. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" comes widely to Central New York, with Nyqvist as the disgraced Swedish reporter and, in the title role, Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker with a taste for Goth who joins his effort. Niels Arden Oplev directed this film, based on the first of Stieg Larsson's three crime novels about Salander and Blomkvist.
A good and decent man, the elderly family patriarch hiring Blomkvist in this trilogy's launch tale -- Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) -- is nonetheless beset by a nest of viperous relatives, greedy, cruel, some of them with deep-rooted and persisting Nazi ties and other, more private weaknesses. He's survived these intervening years since the disappearance of his niece Harriet (played in flashback as a sixteen-year-old by Julia Sporre) by his unflagging search to uncover what became of her. As a character, Blomkvist is close to Larsson, also a crusading anti-fascist journalist whose life was often in danger and who wrote these novels to "relax." In 1995, Swedish neo-Nazis killed eight people, something that Larsson's investigation uncovered and prompted his founding of the Expo Foundation and its magazine of the same name. Like "Red Riding" and "The White Ribbon" (echoed too in Chalmers' "Unmarked" project), this is a film that meditates on the ways that power, once corrupt and unleashed -- the doing of violence simply because it's "so easy," as the killer tells Blomkvist -- seeps into every layer of life, large and small.
Larsson's novels are sometimes called "the Salandar novels" because the figure of Lisbeth is so unlikely and so striking, but also because -- as happens perhaps even more vividly on-screen -- in the course of the story the weight shifts from Blomkvist to her. It's Salandar whose background investigation vets Blomkvist for the Vanger job in the first place. It's Salandar's own past that comes to illuminate and deepen the mystery of Harriet Vanger, and Salandar's stance in the world serves as counterpoint to Harriet's. Noomi Rapace makes a wonderful Salandar and an equal in many intriguing ways to Blomkvist.