onsdag 14 december 2011

Films I prefer to read about

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander.
I still haven't seen the movie, but now I've read David Denby's review of David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. And the first thing he says is about her: "You can’t take your eyes off Rooney Mara, who plays the notorious punk hacker Lisbeth Salander in the American movie version of Stieg Larsson’s page-turner. Slender, sheathed in black leather, with short ebony hair sticking up in a tuft, her fingers sticking out of black woollen gloves as they skitter across a keyboard, Mara cuts through scene after scene like a swift, dark blade."

These words tell me two things: that once more the object that primarily attracts the eye is a woman in a provocating attire. It's the woman in a low cut red dress, it's Jezebel, it's Scarlett wearing an evening dress on an afternoon picnic, it's the femme fatale, Vampirella, Nikita, all dressed to kill. She could be inspiring and amusing, even for me, a woman who always have loved to watch strong, beautiful women on the screen. But this, with all its leather, tatoos, agressive sexiness... it get's so boring! Every time a woman is used for action, power and murder in the movies it is treated like something brand new all over again.

Which brings me to the second thing David Denby's text tells me: His words remind me of the other Salander, the Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, whose performance could be described in almost exactly the same words Denby uses to describe Roony Mara's Salander. She too was a "swift, dark blade".  

As I said before, some movies are best when read about. The experience of reading about films, and perhaps not only of the films one hasn't seen, has a sizzling quality attached to it, a kind of combined nostalgia and naughtiness - as if one would be peeking into things that one is not supposed, or allowed, to look at. The words are a mask, hiding things from sight. It makes the actual viewing of a film, that one hasn't seen or may never ever see, more exciting.

And I wonder if she, the woman "with many piercings—of herself and of others" is not a mask, standing in front, partly protecting, partly hiding, the real things that we need to see. In this story, those things are about Sweden as a community falling apart in a world where evil no longer can be shut out by clever diplomacy and staging one of the world's first closed communities with the invention of the "people's home" - "folkhemmet".

We Swedes, we all felt so secure within our home made boundaries. Now, in a globalized world where anything goes and not even girls are nice, we get scared and hibernation seems a very good alternative. That is probably why, like Denby also points out, this film is mainly set on the private island of the disturbed family Vanger, and not in the big city of Stockholm where Salander and Blomkvist, the male hero of the film, seem to be more at home.

And that is probably why I'll see this film, after all. I won't see it because the characters of Salander and Blomkvist interest me, or because I'm curious to see how Roony Mara's Salander och Daniel Craig's Blomkvist differ from the way the Swedish actors Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist played them. What I want to see is how this film fits into the urban dystopias of David Fincher, and how he interprets the urban collapse of Sweden - a place where we always believe the country side will save us.

måndag 12 december 2011

What can be seen from above?

It seems that my favourite film critic, David Denby of the New Yorker, has already seen and reviewed David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, one of this year's most eagerly awaited film. But the review in question is not in the latest issue of the New Yorker, or at least not in the Nov.28th issue that has landed in my letter box. But I like to wait, and sometimes I even like to just continue waiting, pretending that the timing is not quite right. Lingering on like that has made me a very poor festival goer, and a good customer to our local dvd-store. Sometimes I never see the film I've been pining for, which makes me a rather silly movie buff. But sometimes the text you read about a movie is better than seeing the actual film. So a review by David Denby is worth waiting for.
David Fincher tells stories of urban dystopias. The urban setting of Se7en is a bleak and indifferent place, where a cold rain falls all the time, as if not even angels' tears could move the people living in this city. In many ways the city ressembles New York or perhaps Chicago, at least for someone who only knows these places from the movies. The city remains unnamed in the film, but the script writer apparently draw on some unpleasant memories he had from living in New York.
In Zodiac (2007), the urban setting is on the west coast. The city is San Fransisco which is clearly stated in the film as it is based on the story of the real Zodiac killer and the letters he sent to the San Fransisco Chronicle. There is more sun and day time scenes than in Se7en, but the atmosphere created by Fincher is still cold and claustrophobic, especially in the horrible murder scene when a young couple is attacked while on a picnic at a beautiful lake.
There are shots in Fincher's film that remind me of Clint Eastwood, particularly in Mystic River and The Changeling, with lonely cars slowly moving along lonely city streets, seen from above, like a victim being tracked by a predator, or a heartless God, looking down on the people from high above, and letting tragedy strike without interfering. When the eye is the camera, one can never be sure with Fincher, or Eastwood, whether identification is really something you want or not. Do I really want to share the same vision and views as the killer in the story? If I can identify with the evil one, what does that make me?
Fincher doesn't let me figure this out. His films are often deeply unsettling, like Eastwoods. Although Eastwood's films carry as well a message of omnipotence and righteousness: his heroes and heroines are always right. Fincher's heroes and heroines never share that kind of power. They are more like pawns in a strange game that someone else plays. When they move about in the unfriendly cities, they are like rats in a lab. There is always a greater scheme being laid out somewhere else. Zodiac's letters tease with their possibility of an explanation. But like the scheme of the seven deadly sins, it's more likely a diversion. It hides more than it reveals.
Strangely enough, the pattern of the hostile cities and pawn-like main characters, repeats itself in The Social Network, where there is no evil character or obsessed murderer. But when seen in the context of Fincher's other work, The Social Network becomes an even more unsettling film about the ability of one man to do evil deeds, as the film is about the invention of facebook and communication being established as something which is best done with the help of computers.

I don't know what David Fincher has seen in Stockholm, a much smaller town than any of the cities he has told stories from before. Also, most of the story of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is actually not set in an urban setting, but in the good old Swedish countryside where apparently maniacs can go about their business without no one knowing anything. But I hope he has seen something, from his place way up high above, and that he can, perhaps for the first time in his career, show us hell in a very small place.