Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

(Luftslottet som sprängdes, Swedish, 2009)

The literal translation of this title from the Swedish, I am informed, is “The Air Castle That Was Blown Up.” I think we will all agree that it just doesn’t work in English. “Air castles” or maybe “dream castles” in Swedish seems to mean much the same as it would in English, that is, “pipe dreams,” but I suspect the idiom is something that doesn’t translate. I’ve tried to think of a better way of putting it, but the best I’ve come up with is “Exploding Castles in the Air.” Not a good title for a book or movie. And that’s okay. Many movies are re-titled for distribution to other countries.
So now we move to the endgame. Lisbeth Salander is in the hospital, recovering from three gunshot wounds, including one to the head, that she got when she went to kill her mother-beating father and psychopath half-brother but was ambushed, shot, and buried. But she wasn’t dead, and she digs her way out and severely injures her father with an axe. Kalle Blomkvist finds her and she is arrested for three murders she didn’t commit, plus attempted murder of her father. So Micke and the staff of Millennium, Micke’s lawyer sister, and a hacker named Plague set out to uncover and also prove the facts behind her commitment to a mental hospital at the age of 11, where a pedophile psychiatrist ties her to her bed for 381 days and violates her, and subsequent guardianship by a brutal pig who rapes her, all of this to cover up “national security” secrets and the identity of her father, a total scumbag defector from the USSR. Lord, how many disgusting crimes have been committed and covered up by scumbags in the name of national security? The list is endless.
It’s a daunting and dangerous task, but slowly Micke and the others begin to pry up a deeply buried rock, and the human cockroaches and slugs and shit-eating vermin who have lived under it for 30 years begin to scuttle away. But scorpions and snakes hide under rocks, too. Add to that the fact that it’s hard to believe that a small agency, unknown even to the Prime Minister, could operate and hide for so long—surely you’re being paranoid—and it’s an uphill climb all the way. (Events something like this actually did happen in Sweden in the ‘70s.)
This will be the third time I will praise Noomi Rapace to the skies. But what the hell? She deserves it. This one might have been the most challenging of all for her, because she is incarcerated in a hospital and jail for about two-thirds of the movie, without much to do in a physical way. No chance for the ball-busting action of the first two films. But she destroys her enemies in other ways. There are scenes where she is completely silent, but her eyes and the edges of her mouth speak loudly. I have seldom seen an actress who can speak so loudly in silence and stillness. It is the stillness of a predator about to pounce. Her entry into the courtroom where she is about to have a sanity hearing is so in-your-face that we laughed out loud, as she has chosen to appear the absolute most outlandish Goth punk of your worst nightmares. You think I’m insane? Bite me. Then she and her lawyer totally demolish the opposition. I mean, they burn them to the ground, piss on the ashes, and sow the ground with salt. It was one of two places where the audience we were with broke into applause. The other … well, it’s at the very end, and involves a humongous nail gun …

There is the possibility that she will be nominated for an Oscar this year, she seems to be eligible for at least one of the films. I think there’s little chance she could win. Though you never know. Marie Cotillard did. I’d vote for her, and I haven’t even heard the other nominations.

The English remake of the first film of the trilogy started shooting this September (2010) in Sweden, and for a while the role of Salander was the hottest property in Hollywood. Many names were mentioned, but it fell to Rooney Mara, someone unknown to me. (Haven’t seen her in The Social Network.) I looked at her pictures, and she looks delicate, waif-like. That doesn’t have to be bad news—Noomi Rapace, when she’s at home, looks nothing like Salander; see her interview with Charlie Rose here —but I’m still dubious. It’s being directed by David Fincher, who is interesting (though I didn’t like Se7en as much as some did), and who has worked with her before. Daniel Craig is going to be Blomkvist, and Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård (at least there will be one Swede in it) are cast, too. It’s all very impressive, and I’m, like, still very dubious. It was great to hear that they’re actually doing it in Sweden instead of transplanting it to America. But we’ll see in December of 2011, I guess. I’m sure I’ll go.