Sunday, December 25, 2011

David Fincher: Remaking Darkness (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Columbia Pictures, 2011.

With the simultaneous force and control which has made his reputation as a filmmaker, David Fincher mounts an ambitious, well intentioned remake of the blockbuster Swedish film, itself based upon Stieg Larsson's sensational international best-seller. For the most part, Fincher succeeds at creating a fascinating mood piece which is very uneven, despite Rooney Mara's revelatory performance as ubiquitous anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander, which is every bit legendary as Noomi Rapace in the original films.

Fincher keeps the plot and setting intact, having his actors playing Swedes speaking English. The snowy opression of Scandinavia is a glove for Fincher's stylistic fixations to slip into. Jordan Cronenweth's camera is every bit hypnotic with its distinctly lit visions of a world of betrayal akin to The Social Network. Steven Zaillian's script tries to keep the novel's spirit intact, and for the most part Fincher & company resist Hollywoodization. But the plot remains unwieldy and inpenetrable, and Daniel Craig's earnest prescence and drive for the truth don't match up to the intensity of the original film. And yet, we have Mara, burning inside, expressionless. Her performance should be an abject lesson in methody restraint. The supporting cast headed by Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard, are superb.

The main pull of the picture is Fincher's obsession with the visual limits and obscurities of this snow-filled nightmare world. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide a chillingly precise ambience with their excellent score. The cohesion of the images somehow do not match the portentousness of Larsson's bulky plot. And however we and Fincher dance with understanding Lisbeth, the farther away she seems, which may have been Fincher's intention. This universe he has sculpted harks back to the forbidden world of his underrated directorial debut, Alien 3.

Reassembling his creative team from the similarly uneven The Social Network, Fincher achieves a stylistic ecstasy with his last two pictures which clouds their places as minor Fincher. Visually the best works of his career, Social and Dragon cannot match the burning vision of Fight Club and Zodiac. Here we find a master practicing , sketching, shading, as he is remaking darkness.

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