The Seventh Art: Essay On Dragon Tattoo

If you are into meta-analysis (which comprises all these sorts of subliminal references, tributes and other directorial choices that are designed to heighten the film experience), check out this video essay on Fincher's adaptation decision making for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".

Yeah, I am not quite sure, whom to go with here: The essayist has a few convincing points. Yet Fincher has made statements that seemed to trivialize these supposed hard-wrought and well-thought out decisions: Especially so this is true for the essayist conjuring an all-encompassing theme of immigration, misogyny and xenophobia brilliantly captured in a female vocalist presenting an American cover-version of a British song about Swedish immigrants, appropriately: the "Immigrant Song", and Fincher's choice of the serial killer's fancy for "Orinoco Flow" and its chorus line "sail away" — another obvious reference to the issue of immigration, or is it?

If you decide to go with Fincher instead, the "Immigrant Song" was chosen for sakes none other than: it was playing on his iPod, and he happens to have NIN's mastermind Trent Reznor on speed-dial; Enya's "Orinoco Flow" was supposedly suggested on a whim by Daniel Craig — and adopted as a directorial decision for its ingenius oddity... and, well, because it cracked up everyone in the room.

So yeah, this is a cool piece, and it is most definitely thought provoking, diving into some of the issues and 'politics' surrounding the adaptation of a foreign language film that had already done well commercially, even in the US market.

I personally had a feeling that it was all taken a notch too far; over-analyzed; misread. But who am I to question a proper film meta-analysis!?


Here's a transcript of the video essay (PDF)
...and do make sure to check out The Seventh Art's website.


  1. Welcome to Film/Literature Analysis at University. We have to come up with far-fetched and irrelevant crap like this all the time in our papers and essays. It sucks, and it makes me wish I had gone to a practical film school instead.

  2. Thanks for drawing attention to the video essay and the very fair and kind blog post.

    Having written the essay in that video, I think it's worth noting that I am aware of the anecdotes of why those songs were chosen. To respond more to the commentor, which I recognize is never a great endeavour on the internet, the purpose of the analysis is based on whether the argument of the reading is sustained by the film - it's not an interview with the filmmaker, nor an attempt to 'solve' his intentions. It's a personal reaction to the work, what I find interesting and based on examples of what happens in the film.

    Whether the analysis of any art considered 'irrelevant' is entirely your disposition, but it's not based on having 'to write a University paper'. This is a reading - an argument for what I personally find interesting about the film. In the case of the point about Immigrant Song, there's nothing 'far-fetched' about what is, at the end of the day, a very modest claim. It's not often that films have completely isolated title sequences that use popular music - emphasizing the song and its lyrics, which are not paired with any plot. And in the case of a literary/film franchise that is so distinctively understood as Swedish, I find it hard to believe that a song that starts with "We come from the land of the ice and snow" and includes references to Norse mythology never occurred to Fincher, even if it wasn't the initial impetus for selecting the song. Nor do I doubt that as someone intimately familiar with the story, he is unaware the story's inclusion of the subject of immigration and the title of the song. It's not exactly a conspiracy theory to say that the use of the song interestingly calls to mind these points, unless of course you don't believe there is an immigration storyline, that the song has any specific relationship to the place the story takes place in, or that a cover is interestingly the same process as remaking a film. Again, I don't think I'm really stepping out on a big limb with these observations.

    The inclusion of something like Orinoco Flow is more problematic, I agree, as it was Craig who first suggested its use. But I again defer to the fact that this isn't meant to suggest the intention of its use. It's recognizing that once it is used, there are levels of irony that reverberate because of the island setting, his father's death, the 'global village' that makes that song a fairly popular song internationally, the insularity/xenophobia of his mindset, etc. It touches on enough points in the story that, I believe, make it worth acknowledging. It's something to talk about or consider, not the 'answer' to anything.

    I hope that clarifies how the position taken isn't necessarily one that seeks to prove that these elements were deliberately intended by Fincher to convey these points (though I'd have to imagine some were). In that sense, it's not about misreading or 'over-analyzing' because the point of the analysis was never to come to a confirmation of what is in Fincher's mind - that would be better achieved in a conversation with him. It's more about engaging with the text and keeping the argument sound in and of itself.

    Thanks again for the blog post and for taking the time to watch/engage with the video essay.

  3. Hi Christopher,

    thank you for visiting and commenting. The most inspiring aspect of your analysis, to me, is the hypothesis you are putting up for debate. Like I had said before, I find your observations thought-provoking — whether or not, as you say, they confirm with the director's actual intention or not.

    Fundamentally I believe what you do with your analysis arrives a brilliantly interesting question: 'How' a director makes his decisions. With Fincher I find this somewhat hard to pin down. He seems rather keen on conveying a hands-on directing style, nothing too intellectual, nothing too theoretical. With anecdotes such as picking "Immigrant Song" from a gut feeling he seems, in my opinion, to purposefully trivialize these decisions, as if it had been "just an intuition".

    And this is my very point: There can be no doubt I am a huge fanboy for Fincher, and I greatly respect his mastery of the craft. So I will say this: I am perfectly willing to embrace the idea that Fincher arrives at least some of his decisions from a subconscious level. And this may mean that indeed he is (consciously) unaware of every single suggestion and irony and meta-statement of something as he comes up with it, nonetheless creating a consistent work that allows for all of these possibly pre-conscious notions to resonate.

    And again, I know far too little about this kind of film analysis to make a justified comment. Thank you for clarifying your position!


    A Se7en funny!

  5. I'm a fan of this type of articles/essays :) I like to discover new things/themes in the movies I already know very well. It's cool to see them from a different perspective. And I don't find this essay too "over-analyzed"... I've seen worse ;)

    But I have to agree with FincherFanatic... it's really hard to tell with Fincher :P I have a theory... that he reached this level of mastery that he no longer needs to "think" about all this stuff, he just reacts ;) And because he is a genius/master, somehow it all fits perfectly... and still there's plenty of room for analysis and theories :)

    Anyway, thanks for the essay Christopher, and thanks FF for posting the link :)

  6. I stand by my point and can say from my own experience as an essay/paper writer at University that we are forced to over-analyze and back up very personal interpretations that don't have much to do with the work of art itself or the intention of the director/writer. That is liberal arts for you.