Oscar History

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April Showers: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

In the years doing the April Showers series it's become clear that there are basically four types of shower scenes in movies: sex scenes, sight gags, horror moments when characters are at their most vulnerable and emotional cleansing moments (that the body also gets scrubbed is just a bonus). Dragon Tattoo's shower sequence is clearly the latter type, after Lisbeth's brutal rape. David Fincher famously quipped pre-release that his movie had too much anal rape for Oscar. Oscar didn't mind so much nominating it for several Oscars.

Fincher's discussion of the sequence [after the jump. NSFW] on the commentary track is interesting. 

There are these heightened moment that are used to dramatize conflicts between characters and horrific ideas about what people do to one an other. I liken it to -- in an odd way to me the scariest thing in Psycho is not Norman's stabbing of Janet Leigh in the shower but his cleanup. He goes through this ritualized almost... it's like the anal retentiveness of it, the need for order, to restore order, is what makes it so kind of terrifying. I love the fact that Bjurman doesn't see himself as a rapist. It has to do with his narcissism. I think that if you held Bjurman at gunpoint and said "Why do you do these horrible things?". He would have an excuse. He would have a rationalization..."


When Rooney fumbles with the pills and takes off her shirt we see the tattoo on her chest that has her mother's name and the day her mother died. And then she squats in the shower. It's so incredibly vulnerable and it's so brave of somebody to do. It totally wins me over.

It's one of those moments that strikes me as an audience member on a level that I can't even rationalize. I can't even look at it and say what it is that is so moving about it. It's the notion of being so... it's not the nakedness. It's the trying to put the pieces back together, trying to make sense of it, trying to move on." 

Watching it a second time recently, free of expectations or the heat of the Oscar curiousity moment, Fincher's amazing craftmanship and the guild's then surprising response makes more sense. It's clear in every frame that this might be the best movie anyone can make of that particular novel unless they really strayed from the choppy source material.

I am insane."

P.S. I can't decide what's crazier: Rooney Mara's Oscar nomination (not that she isn't terrific but it's still an out-there nomination in terms of what the Academy usually goes for) or the fact that they used Lisbeth's own revenge rape as the Oscar clip.

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Reader Comments (18)

Very interesting!

Also, I don't think it was too out there for the Academy. Yes, it was quite an intense movie and the Academy aren't known for their love of movies featuring sexual violence and rape, but I still Lisbeth Salander is very much the sort of role that Oscar goes for. A young upcoming star, with a well-known director, loved literary character and she got 'uglied up.' I do agree though, that the choice of the Oscar choice was crazy! I was so shocked that they showed it, but I was very happy! It was definitely her best acting in the film and it was an inspired choice for the show!

Speaking of the actual show, with a couple of months to dwell on it, how did you feel about the ceremony as a whole Nathaniel?

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Three of Jodie Foster's four nominations fall into the extreme category. Sure her 'Silence of the Lambs' of character is the most normal but she still gets semen thrown on her face.

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Three of Jodie Foster's four nominations fall into the extreme category. Sure her 'Silence of the Lambs' character is the most normal but she still gets semen thrown on her face.

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

@ Nathaniel: Don't three and four overlap? For example, Lisbeth Salander is at her most vulnerable after being raped and the shower acts as an emotional cleansing moment. What's the difference then between the two?

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I have never been a fan of the novels (couldn't even finish the first one) and I never saw the Swedish films, but thanks to Fincher I quite enjoyed this one, although I think it would be even better without 20 minutes or so.

Also, I'm quite disappointed with Robin Wright's performance and I think the accents of everyone are kind of a mess. When it comes to Rooney Mara, I think she's very good, but I would trade her for Charlize in less than a minute.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Extreme and intense are two good words to describe this particular movie, yes.

I really love this emotional cleansing moment from the film, it's well executed and delivers the point and makes you sympathize with her for the first time (that whole sequence of the rape, actually) only to brilliantly hoodwink you with her equally brutal revenge later on.

That Oscar clip will go down as legendary, it's incredible that they had the balls to use it as it's a) her best moment and b) blows the rest of the other Best Actress clips out of the water. Makes me wish they honestly always did that, spoilers be damned! lol.

I apparently need to watch it with Fincher's commentary, that is some interesting insight. I might just cave in and buy the blu.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Oh and I have this funny feeling that 20-30 years from now, this nomination is (still) gonna seem totally inspired and fresh and will age very well. I'm thinking Isabelle Adjani/Story of Adele H, not in quality but definitely in brilliant oddity.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I don't see the parallelism between Mara and Adjani. Actually, quality aside, I think they're two opposite types of nominations.

Mara = "There's star potential over here"
Adjani = "Look what we found overseas"

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

The Academy giving Mara membership on the strength of The Social Network was enough to see that she was going to be a contender if she gave even a half-way decent performance. She's got that Gwyneth-princess vibe, even though she even beat Gwyn in the haughty department.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I might just have to get that DVD for the commentary track alone. Interesting stuff.

Bia, I don't get the "Gwyneth-princess vibe." She looked uncomfortable all award season.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen K.

Rooney Mara's nomination didn't surprise me in the slightest. The Academy seems to love her, so she could be the first actor to earn three nominations for playing the same role.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

@BVR - if I may jump in on that question? I think what Nat meant was "most physically vunerable": the victim is naked in a shower, generally relaxed under the warm water, and trapped in an enclosed space, and unable to run away, etc etc. Not that the victim is at their most emotionally vunerable. (Very often if I recall correctly, in that sort of scene, the victim is NOT particularly emotionally vunerable, which adds to the shock. They are not expecting anything to go awry, just going about daily life.)

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

@janice: That makes a lot more sense. I went back in reread Nat's sentence and it's much clearer. I think I just misread it. Thanks for that, Janice

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

@BVR - you're welcome; I can see how that can be misread.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

yes, that is what i meant.

April 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I actually thought she was rather weak in the "I am insane" clip; it's such baity material yet she came off kind of flat. Outside of the actual scenario, I didn't believe that Mara really made her "insane". Otherwise her performance was pretty good - her best scenes were actually the "I made a friend" and when Craig complimented her near the end.

And, no, she's not getting nominated for all three movies LOL.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Comment Du Jour, woo.

Peggy Sue -- I may have been reaching a bit but something about how they were both out of the norm young female nominees in non-traditional Oscar vehicles struck a chord.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

@Danielle: just to clarify, her character isn't actually insane. She's trying to convince the rapist that she is, to scare him.

April 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterar7u3
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