Archive for November 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

November 1, 2010

In one of the odder moments in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, a man in his late seventies, staggering with the pain of liver cancer, enters another man’s hospital room and kills him. This unlikely assassin is part of a super-secret Swedish group — dubbed “the Section” by the authorities — who apparently care about nothing except silencing Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the spiky hacker heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. All of these conspirators, plotting in shadows, are old and decrepit — one is on dialysis. I reflected that I hadn’t seen so many septuagenarians doddering around trying to kill one specific person since all those doomed monks straining to ice Damien Thorn in The Final Conflict.

Stieg Larsson apparently envisioned ten books featuring Lisbeth Salander and her fellow crusader for truth, intrepid reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist); unfortunately, he died (or was assassinated, depending on who you listen to) after publishing only three. Hornet’s Nest is based on the last book, following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire; it’s most likely the last time you’ll see Lisbeth as enacted (indelibly) by Noomi Rapace, who has said she’s quite done with the emotionally difficult character. So it’s a goodbye of sorts, though David Fincher (The Social Network) is currently filming a Dragon Tattoo remake with Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. I look forward to Rapace adding her intensity to many more films (though I’d also like to see her lighter side, which comes out in interviews).

Hornet’s Nest wraps up the sometimes sordid saga of Lisbeth and her many abuses at the hands of the misogynist Swedish system. A lot of it is anticlimactic (this is the rare film in which a major antagonist dies offscreen) and talky. Lisbeth faces trial for the attempted murder of her corrupt father, and Mikael, as usual, works tirelessly to gather evidence in her defense. Hornet’s Nest is full of meetings and interviews and people sitting around looking at files (analog and digital) while the score keeps intoning the same two ominous notes. It’s a gloomy affair — in this movie’s Sweden, it’s either raining, is about to rain, or has just rained — with precious little levity and, as in Played with Fire, almost no interaction between Lisbeth and Mikael except at the very beginning and very end.

Still, when we enter the courtroom, with Lisbeth defiantly gothed up in leather, piercings and a mohawk, the movie wakes up. It rouses us cheaply — we’re given a contemptible, lying psychoanalyst to hiss and hoot at — but it rouses us just the same, in the familiar old way. For all its radical politics and apparent glorification of hackers, the Millennium series is narratively conservative, hitting police-procedural and courtroom-thriller beats familiar from television. Interestingly, though, the original Swedish title for Hornet’s Nest is Luftslottet som sprängdes, which translates roughly as The Air Castle That Exploded, “air castle” being a Swedish term for a pipe dream. The pipe dream here, it seems, is that the largely male-dominated authorities have your best interests at heart. The story of Lisbeth blows that air castle to oblivion.