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Soundtracking: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

by Chris Feil

Folks seem to be greeting this week’s “Dragon Tattoo story” The Girl in the Spider’s Web with “that again” eyerolls, like something we’ve moved on from. But David Fincher’s American kickoff birthed its own now tired pop culture artifact when it revamped Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to christen its grungy tale of abused women and lurking fascism. The band had once been largely cagey about use of their music for repurposing, even signature tracks such as this, but now you can easily find it at play in superhero movies and commercials.

None of them however touch the singularity of Fincher’s grim vision as he used it in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo...

Not only does it somewhat return Fincher to his music video roots (the sequence really is a solid standalone piece), but it also delivers the all-too-rare brilliant opening credits sequence. Fincher’s cinema is the dark side of the mainstream, and he milks “Immigrant Song” for all of its catchy punishment.

Let’s not forget that this is a strange indulgence for a film that is already pushing three hours, but still an allowable one. In all of its abstract, oiled glory, the sequence does prepare any unaware audience for the extremity that it about to come. It’s a nightmare vision of the world as Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander sees and experiences it, one of trauma and violence, where invading evil forces corrupt her simple, darkly pristine existence. Is it out of place from the rest of the film’s chilly austerity? Maybe yes, but its world-building for the protagonist’s headspace is tough to dismiss. And, sure, it’s also pretty cool in a way that only Fincher can deliver.

The film is the classiest expression of the trashiest noir, and “Immigrant Song” is equally centered in its Venn diagram of rock and roll sleaze and exacting musical genius. With its “land of the ice and snow” lyrics, the song choice exhibits Fincher’s devilish glibness, making it an obvious choice but still the right one. But having Karen O adapt the song already puts us in the headspace of a familiar product being told with a fresh perspective, and crucially a female one. All of that matches of the film’s alchemy of new political and personal ideas at play in the timeless framework of pulpy crime saga. Naturally, Lisbeth, a very new kind of heroine, is the inspiration.

Which begs the question with the obvious answer: what would Lisbeth think about the theme song bestowed upon her? Much as the film has the sharpest take on who she is, in all her justified righteousness, something even as mainstream as Led Zeppelin would likely elicit a glare strong enough to make Fincher think again. She would not be into it, even if she might condone Karen O’s furious, horny hijacking take. Instead, Lisbeth is more appropriately served by the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that drones steadily throughout the film. She’s not a badass of rock and roll, she’s a phantom of orchestral severity.

All Soundtracking installments can be found here!

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Reader Comments (6)

I LOVE this weirdly underrated film. It deserves even more Oscar noms imo.

November 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFR

This movie is SO awesome! The opening credits, the mood, the smooth camera work and an incredible performance from Rooney Mara. The soundtrack is just W O W

November 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

It's slowly but surely become one of my favourite films of the 2010s. I've seen it seven or eight times. I'm not even a big Fincher fan, crime movie fan or Scandi noir fan. But I love this one. It's so well made, Rooney Mara is spot on, Daniel Craig is so relaxed (though his character isn't) and so loveable in it, and I love its snowy, glassy, crystal-clear digital beauty. And it digs deep into its story. Takes you right down and up and out the other side. A real thriller. Tense and touching every time.

November 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

An interest "what if" is to speculate what they would have done if Fincher and co had gone forward with the rest of the trilogy. Would they have done sequences with other Led Zeppelin song, if so which ones, or would they have remixed other popular songs with little jokes in their lyrics like that?

November 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMJS

I love that soundtrack as I dig anything Trent and Atticus does. NIN bitches!

November 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

This really is a great piece of writing, bravo Chris.

November 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobUK

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