Image and Symbol > Film

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo


Matt Koeske:
I just got around to seeing the 2009 Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Like the other films mentioned in this forum, GwDT can be read as a purely archetypal story.  It is a rich anima tale that reflects a great deal of the hero/anima syzygy dynamic . . . the unseen to the recognized hero/anima connection (emergence of the syzygy), the night-sea journey, the battles of the syzygy with the Demon, the valuation of the anima wound, Coniunctio, loss and transformation, Nigredo (only briefly touched upon at the end when Blomkvist has to serve is short prison sentence) and the transference of the Self-languaging role from the anima to the hero.

I won't go into specifics unless someone else is interested in talking about it, but I do recommend it to anyone interested in "Jungian" films or who is interested in anima patterns.

One caution I will mention is that the form of Demonic presence in this film involves the abuse, rape, and murder of women by men,  The original Swedish title of the book and film was not "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" but "Men Who Hate Women".  There are some disturbing scenes in the film.  The anima figure is a wounded victim of various abuses and traumas who wears her darkened "disfiguration/wound" (what in fairytales is typically called enchantment . . . and would be equivalent to the girl who dresses in the furs of numerous animals, see tales in the tradition of Allerleirauh . . . often with a theme of incest or abuse of a daughter by a father) in the form of spikes, studs, piercings, black clothing, black dyed hair, and of course, tattoos.  As for the latter, yes, she has a huge dragon tattooed on her back, which is both an indication of her power/ferocity and her Fall.  She burned her father, who had been abusing her mother, to death when she was 12.  Although too young to be prosecuted as an adult, she remains attached/imprisoned to a kind of parole officer/guardian (who rapes her and upon whom she exacts revenge).  Like her dragon, she is a fire-breather, but the fire comes from a deep wound that essentially defines her character.

I really liked the metaphor of contact between the anima figure (Lisbeth Salander) and the hero (Mikael Blomkvist).  Blomkvist is a reporter who writes an exposé on corporate corruption and is sued for libel by the person exposed.  Blomkvist is set up for this charge and convicted.  He will have to do some jail time, but for the moment is still free.  During this period of "freedom", he quits his job at the magazine he writes for and is hired by a wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger to figure out what happened to Vanger's niece Harriet 40 years ago (when she disappeared in a case that was never solved).  While Blomkvist is researching this cold case, he is being surveilled by the Vanger Group, who is trying to dig up dirt on him in order to smear his reputation (further?).

Lisbeth is a professional hacker hired by the Vanger Group to do the surveillance on Blomkvist.  She has hacked into Blomkvist's computer and is able to see everything he is working on.  She reports to the Vanger Group that his is clean.  There is nothing to smear him with.  But this seems to endear Blomkvist to her somewhat.  When he starts recording notes from his investigation of Harriet Vanger's disappearance, Lisbeth reads his notes and is able to crack a code (left by Harriet) that opens up the case.  She decides to email Blomkvist this cracked code, thereby revealing that she had hacked his computer and had been surveilling him.  He comes to her apartment to confront her and asks her to join him in his investigation, which she agrees to do.

This is such a wonderful metaphorical rendering of the connection between the anima and the heroic ego that it could have come straight from a real dream.  It is always reassuring to see that the archetypes are alive and well, even in modern culture.  Sure, fairytales are the core archetypal literary texts (myths, varyingly bastardized versions of fairytales, archetypally speaking), but sometimes modern texts can channel archetypal patterns in a very "pure" fashion.  And when this happens, we often get an extremely detailed portrayal of an archetypal pattern of organization.  At times (at least in certain aspects of an archetypal theme), these modern archetypal texts can allow even deeper and more detailed insight into archetypal phenomena than fairytales typically do.  This is the case, for instance, in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient.


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