Sundance film: ‘The Man Who Played With Fire’ shows Stieg Larsson’s dedication to democracy
Stieg Larsson had an intimate sense of Sweden’s dark side, which comes across vividly in his Millennium Trilogy — “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels.
Director Henrik Georgsson’s new film about Larsson, “Stieg Larsson — The Man Who Played With Fire,” shows how the author came to understand that side of Sweden while researching and reporting the far right.
“If you’re expecting a film about him as a crime novelist, this is not that movie,” Georgsson said. “People know him, of course, as the crime novelist and they don’t know much about him. We wanted to do a film about the real Stieg Larsson, what he was really doing in his life.”
For most of his adult life, Larsson sought to shine a spotlight on racism and fascism, and became one of the leading experts on the far right in Europe. He didn’t start writing novels until the last few years of his life.
Georgsson said he was selected by the producer to create the “The Man Who Played With Fire” because of his Nordic Noire work in the television shows “The Bridge,” and “Wallander.”
Georgsson continues in that tradition in “The Man Who Played With Fire,” chronicling Larsson’s life from his early childhood to his untimely death of a heart attack in 2004.
Friday, Jan. 25, 6:00 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinema 6, Salt Lake City
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 9:30 p.m., The Ray Theatre
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 8:30 a.m., Prospector Square Theatre
Friday, Feb. 1, 10:00 p.m., Redstone Cinema 2
Saturday, Feb. 2, 11:30 a.m., Egyptian Theatre
The film draws heavily from interviews with his co-workers and colleagues both at the newspaper TT News, where Larsson was a designer, and at Expo, the anti-racist magazine he helped found. Some of the interviewees conceal their identity out of fear for their lives, having received death threats while covering the far right.
“The Man Who Played With Fire” also uses an actor to play Larsson in reenactments, none of which use dialogue. Georgsson used those scenes to create Larsson as a presence in the film, by depicting him doing things like drinking coffee, and they often feature Larsson aggressively smoking cigarettes while out collecting information on Swedish neo Nazis or poring over paperwork on the same subject.
“The Man Who Played With Fire” shows Larsson’s work to be backbreaking and dangerous, and a large part of the film focuses on how difficult and often poorly compensated Larsson and his colleagues were in their efforts to guard democracy.
“He’s not famous, not even in Sweden, for that part of his work,” Georgsson said.
In many ways, the point of “The Man Who Played With Fire” is to affirm that sometimes-fruitless work, as it chronicles both Larsson’s rise to prominence and the rise of nationalist groups from their skinhead roots to the buttoned-up, parliamentary present.
“We take the open society and democracy for granted, but maybe it’s just this little gap from the Second World War until now, and that this is just a little (anomaly),” Georgsson said. “Start thinking about, maybe it’s not impossible that (fascism) will happen again.
“It’s really like what Steig says in the end,” Georgsson said. “That maybe 20 years from now, we won’t have democracy,”
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