You will have no doubt already heard that the much-anticipated English-language version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is out later this month (Dec. 21, to be precise), based on the first of Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium book trilogy.It follows the critically acclaimed Swedish movie of the same title that was released two years ago. As we all know, a great portion of moviegoers in this fine country of ours are not fond of subtitles, so an English-language version was somewhat inevitable, given the success of the books. Truthfully, we'd be vaguely suspicious that the remake would be sub-par (*cough* Let The Right One In versus Let Me In *cough*) if it weren't for the fact that it's been made by one of our favorite directors. If anyone is going to do this story justice on the big screen, it's David Fincher. He has a unique and distinctive vision and it -- boy, oh, boy, it really -- is a dark one. Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en. All of these potentially good movies have become truly great under the watchful eye of Fincher. Not to mention what he did with the creation of Facebook, in The Social Network. David Fincher is spectacularly good at creating a sense of forboding; the idea that nothing is right with the world and that dark forces and corruption will always prevail. He is also consistently disinterested in holding back when it comes to depicting the worst that humanity has to offer.
Fincher also has a knack for taking things that we know are terrible but are totally disengaged from and forcing us to engage with them -- and thus fully understand the horror in our midst. The Zodiac Killer's crimes are so well-known and analyzed, especially by Bay Area-dwellers, that for many of us, the killings had become merely a series of crimes and unsolved mysteries. Zodiac, however, forced us all to acknowledge the terror suffered by the serial killer's victims. Fincher forced us to empathize with them and humanize them after years of them being reduced to merely names on a list. Similarly, Se7en outwardly acknowledged humanity's ability to ignore the worst elements of our society and turn a blind eye for the sake of self-preservation. When the film was released in 1995, it was incredibly shocking -- it still is, actually. If you were lucky enough to see it in theaters at the time, you might recall the audible shock that audiences expressed as each of the movie's murder victims was revealed. (The moment when an emaciated, pale, and putrid-smelling corpse turns out to be a still-living human being remains scarring for this writer, and we're sure for a great many others.) Further, Fincher explored the human penchant for self-destruction and a post-feminist crisis of masculinity in the spectacularly great Chuck Palahniuk novel adaptation, Fight Club. It too caused its fair share of controversy when critics mistakenly assumed that the distinctly stylized movie would glorify and glamorize violence. It did quite the opposite -- so vivid and gritty was this film, you could practically smell the mix of blood and filth and dank basements while watching it.
Fincher has never been one to shy away from showing us the worst of the worst. His vision is unflinching and unmerciful. And we are most relieved that it is he handling the sexual violence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Male directors haven't always been the best at handling material involving violence against women. There is a tendency in many cases to sexualize and fetishize the violence -- especially when rape is involved. But we have no fear that David Fincher will make anything about this in the least bit titillating. For anyone. The violence in Zodiac was stark and horrifying. The violence in Fight Club was, while cathartic (and, okay, occasionally comical to show us all what silly human beings we are), was still appalling throughout. And in Se7en, the violence was so disturbing, it had an almost apocalyptic feel. Fincher was able to take a scenario in which a woman was literally fucked to death, and make it the worst thing you could possibly imagine. Many other directors would've approached it in a more sexualized and fetishistic way for the sake of viewer comfort -- but David Fincher is not that director. So it is only fitting that he should take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- a book that was originally titled Män Som Hatar Kvinnor. Which means Men who Hate Women. Even though there is already a movie based on this book, we are so thoroughly excited, it's like we don't even know how this story ends already. Because, under Fincher's watchful eye, maybe we don't. Maybe he's going to drag things out of this plot that we never would've noticed otherwise.
As Aaron Sorkin -- The Social Network's screenplay writer -- noted in this month's Vanity Fair: "David sees dead people -- which is to say, he sees things I can't see. The smallest gradations of color and shadow. The positioning of a prop relative to the composition of a frame. The wetness of a gutter partially illuminated by a traffic light." David Fincher sees the world differently to the rest of us, but he has a magical ability to show us his vision in all its unflinching glory. His Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is going to be as memorable and as vivid as we've come to expect from him.