The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second in the trilogy of movie adaptions of the bestselling Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) includes brief depictions of a man disfigured and crippled by burn injuries and age, and a person with congenital analgesia (an inability to feel pain).

Using disfigurement as a shorthand of indicating a villain is a time-honored tradition in movies and literature before that, but at least in this case the villain arrived by his injuries as a result of his villainy; he was set afire by the plucky heroine as revenge for raping and beating her mother. Years later, when his name, Zalachenko, comes up in connection to a series of murders, the police dismiss him as a suspect because he’s a “cripple who would need to call a mobility service to get anywhere”.

Little do the police know that Zalachenko has a grown son, Niedermann, with congenital analgesia. Built like a tank and capable of carrying out Zalachenko’s dirty work; murders, intimidations, beatings, and torchings. People with an inability to feel pain have become the new cliche movie henchmen; they are portrayed as being virtually unstoppable and unmoved by the suffering of others. The reality for people with congenital insensitivity to pain is quite different. As they cannot feel the damage being done to their bodies minor injuries often escalate into permanent damage, leaving many of them unsuited to a life of crime.

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