I’ve intentionally been avoiding writing a story about the Millennium Trilogy for a while now. While I haven’t read the books, I have seen the films which are believably good, but despite the title, the tattoo in question doesn’t really play a major role in the films. Sure the character of Lisbeth sports a massive back piece, but seeing as how you only see it a couple of times and the actress, Noomi Rapace, didn’t actually get it tattooed on herself I just assumed that the entire thing was a non-story.
Today I was pleasantly proven wrong.
Before we begin, here’s the trailer for the first film: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
I use Google news alerts to flag stories that have specific key words in them. Tattoo of course being one of them. So you can imagine that with these films gaining international acclaim, the books being bestsellers, and casting rumors flying around for the American adaptations, my inbox has been filled for the past few months of stories about the trilogy. For the most part I just dismiss them, but since they finally got around to casting the role of Lisbeth in the American films, the e-mails have died down.
Yet here I am today, talking about the thing I promised not to discuss on ModBlog. The reason I’m bringing it up now? Well, I’ll let this article from The Mirror fill you in.
Winning a career-making role in the Dragon Tattoo films brought a strange mixture of pleasure and pain to rising star Noomi Rapace. The 30-year-old actress knew she had to nail the part of androgynous anti-hero Lisbeth Salander – or risk offending the many fans of the creator, best-selling author Stieg Larsson. So to really convince as the punky, chain-smoking, kick-ass computer hacker, Noomi embarked on a remarkable transformation. She went on a strict diet, trained in kickboxing and Thai boxing and even took her motorcycle licence. A non-smoker, she began puffing her way through “thousands of cigarettes” both on-set and off it. And she wouldn’t even consider faking all those piercings in Salander’s ears and nose because, as Noomi puts it, “I wanted to feel those piercings in myself.”
You’ll often hear of actors undergoing massive physical changes for a role. De Niro gained a significant amount of weight for his role in Raging Bull, while Christian Bale lost a frightening amount of weight in a short period of time for his role in The Machinist, only to gain it all back plus more in a couple months to be ready for his role in Batman Begins. Actors are required to change themselves to some degree for a role, sometimes it’s simply a costume, and others require a lot more commitment. So for Noomi Rapace, in order to fully transform into the character of Lisbeth she drastically changed not only her physical appearance, but also her behaviour months before filming.
While the diet and smoking is one aspect of the transformation, this being ModBlog I wanted to focus on her mods. You get a brief glimpse of them in the trailer but having seen the films it is obvious that she didn’t just opt for one or two piercings to personify the character. I counted about 10-12 seperate piercings spread out over her lobes, cartilage, nostrils and septum. While by ModBlog standards this isn’t anything too significant, to see an actress portray a character so well, and commit to that many mods is something significant. While the character of Lisbeth is certainly troubled, and goes through several drastic events over the course of the series, what we’re seeing is essentially a mainstream film that doesn’t treat modifications as some form of joke or used as shock value.
I’m sure we’ve all seen films where a “punk” character appears on screen wielding a vast array of facial piercings simply to appear intimidating to the viewer, yet in these films the piercings appear to be just a natural extension of the character. In fact, in the scenes where she isn’t wearing her piercings you get a sense of discomfort looking at her, as if something is missing. Which of course there is. I think an accurate analogy to this would be the NYC skyline post 9-11. The image of the skyline had been etched into the minds of millions of people, and now, looking at it, there is something missing. I’m not making any political statements or anything like that, but the idea that something is removed from an image that everyone was used to seeing makes one feel that sense of “not right”. Of course the NYC skyline itself evokes a lot of feelings, but I think you get where I was going with this. I really think that with Noomi Racpace’s commitment to the role, combined with a skilled filmmaker, that this may be the first portrayal of a modified person that actually captures the essence of the modified culture. Where the focus is on the character, and not the mods, yet when the mods are removed you can tell something has changed not only on her physical exterior, but something inside her as well.
If you were to take a look in a mirror one day and all of your mods were gone, how would you feel? What about those close to you, how do you think they would react if a modification you’ve had for years was suddenly gone without a trace? Because we don’t treat our modifications as something other than what they are, an extension of our ideal selves, we can sense the incompleteness that occurs with a mod is removed. Yes I realize people retire mods all the time, but even then, those first few days really can reveal how much our mods are a part of us.
Looking back at these films with the knowledge of the actor’s commitment to the part, it really shines a light on how a person who is modified isn’t defined by their mods, but by who they are as a person. While this isn’t anything new to us, there still is a large portion of the population that doesn’t realize it. Given that the titular dragon tattoo is the one modification in the film that isn’t a real mod, I thought I should close this post out with a real dragon tattoo from the BMEzine.com tattoo galleries.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen the films. Can anyone else who has seen them weigh in? Did Noomi Rapace actually getting the piercings done change your view of the films and her portrayal, or does her performance stand out on its own without the piercings being a factor?