If a woman approaches any animal and has
sexual relations with it, you shall kill the
woman and the animal; they shall be put to
death, their blood is upon them.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.2 Leviticus 19:17-18
The Swedish title means “Men Who Hate Women,” and this probably more accurately describes the plot (or better, the crimes) than the English one does, the latter merely describing what we see briefly on the back of the heroine a few times in the love scenes. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is a journalist set up for a fall by the man whom he had exposed as an international fraud and arms dealer. Convicted of falsifying the information in his expose’ and sentenced to jail for a short period, he has three months before he is to report to prison.
Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), head of a vast industrial empire, sends for him, asking that he use that pre-jail time to research the mystery surrounding the death of his niece Harriett, whom he had loved like a daughter. At the age of 16 she had disappeared 40 years earlier from the island where the many members of the dysfunctional family lives. Michael learns that he has a link with the girl—she had babysat for him when his parents lived on the island, his father having been employed by the Vangers. Henrik believes that a member of his own family is responsible for Harriett’s disappearance.
The girl of the title (the English one) Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) enters the picture after she hacks his computer for a client. She becomes aware of his innocence, and so on her own time follows his activities, sending him a file that reveals what she has been doing, and leaving a trail so that he can easily find her. Joining up with him, her assistance becomes invaluable, because she is the one who figures out that a list of initials followed by numbers, which Harriet had written in her diary, refer to brutally murdered women and to Bible passages dealing with punishments inflicted on wayward women (for one, see the above in Leviticus).
There is a subplot in which Lizbeth, once incarcerated in a prison psychiatric ward, is victimized sexually by her probation officer, ironically called a “guardian.” She manages to turn the tables in a scene that goes far beyond an “R” rating. Apparently this episode is to show her toughness and determination to control her own life. The later love scenes, and far more, the photos of the victims of a serial killer also will be off-putting to some.
The story draws us into it as the pair slowly unravels the 40-year-old mystery. There is no grace to be found here, especially in Lizbeth, who has suffered so much from the sadistic person who is revealed to be the killer. The film also demonstrates how a twisted mind can use certain Old Testament passages to justify horrendous deeds. Hard to believe that both of the two quotations above came from the same book. The Bible might be the word of God, or better, contain the Word, but in the hands of some it can become the word, or the tool, of the Devil. It needs to be handled with care.