So I was in London last week for a media archives training course, and decided to go see Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In), as it's certainly not playing anywhere in North Wales, and apparently I'm now a vampire movie expert (even though I have yet to see Coppola's Dracula...I know, I know, I'm a disgrace... I'm on it, don't worry :-), and lots of people have been asking if I've seen it yet. I'd heard a lot of the buzz, and figured it was certainly something worth checking out.
Let the Right One In is an independent Swedish film by director Tomas Alfredson, and written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel. It's about a sober, bullied, twelve year-old boy named Oskar who befriends his mysterious new neighbor, Eli; Eli smells kind of funny, often walks barefoot through the snow, and only comes out at night... it's only later that we discover this is because Eli is a vampire who has been twelve years old for a very, very long time.
It. Was. Brilliant. Seriously. I've just recently been exposed to the pleasures and versatility of World Cinema, and it's fascinating. The things people seem capable of doing when Hollywood studios aren't in charge amazes me. There are other, unique stories that are able to be told that simply 'wouldn't sell' in Hollywood without a better reason that simply being brilliant. How refreshing, huh?
In this film, I'm sure the budget was minimal, but it wasn't necessary to be large. The only special effects were the movements of Eli, and to be brutally honest, they were far superior to Edward's cartoon-like running or his sound-effect-enhanced speeding around the Volvo to open Bella's door in Twilight. I found those effects kind of cheesy, and also the tinkling when Edward sparkles, and the cheese factor took away from the more respected aspects of the story.
The gritty realism of Let the Right One In, and the raw atmosphere of it simply lend to the believability. It's a harsh climate (perpetually snowing), very little daylight, muted, dated colors, and the emphasis is on the pseudo love story of these two twelve year-olds, along with a lot of the pains of growing up. Serious issues such as bullying, lost love, bad relationships, death and divorce come into play, but it all just contributes to this compelling story between Eli and Oskar.
This is from Ebert's review (who I'm not a huge fan of, but he sums this up nicely):
Remove the vampire elements, and this is the story of two lonely and desperate kids capable of performing dark deeds without apparent emotion. Kids washed up on the shores of despair. The young actors are powerful in draining roles. We care for them more than they care for themselves. Alfredson's palette is so drained of warm colors that even fresh blood is black.
And that, I think, is an interesting part. That if you remove the vampires, you have a compelling, striking film that tugs at the heartstrings and all of that, but with the vampire element, it takes on this fantasy appeal, and you know how I feel about fantasy... I think once something is declared fantasy it allows you to put aside your own hesitations and uncertainties, and analyze big concepts more easily. If this was just a love story, I'd be hung up on the bullying, or the disgruntled parents... but because it has a bit of the supernatural, I can look beyond the plot points and examine the nature of love; what it's capable of overcoming and confronting, and how far friendship may go.
The shots were great, the characters great, the quirky humor moments great (attacking cats, dredging bodies...), and the young actors that carried the film were superb.
I do wonder if it's getting more attention because of the raised profile of anything vampire right now (thanks to Twilight's success), but I kind of think anything that draws attention to the power of independent film is okay by me.
I just hope Hollywood doesn't do a 'remake' soon. Let's just hold onto the original for awhile.