07 May, 2009

Let the Right One In

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.


Jenny Jerkface said...

I was SO excited to see this movie and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Seriously, it was one of the best movies I have ever seen.

Great post!

caninecologne said...

i had missed seeing this movie during its limited run in the theatres last year. i plan to rent the dvd, but i'm debating whether to read the book first or not before watching the movie. i've heard nothing but good reviews on 'let the right one in'.

Anonymous said...

oh i hate that movie i am from sweden and i cant belive how much praise it gotten it came out ages ago over here. if you dont like people getting eaten dont see it

Karla said...

I loved this film when I saw it earlier this year! I am very disappointed to say that it is being remade already for 2010 release by an American film maker (name escapes me) - the same director who did Cloverfield. I just see no need to remake perfection - it was excellent.

Karla said...

This film is also a book to film adaptation that is very different from the book (or so I have heard - have not had a chance to read it myself). Would be great to get the perspective of someone who has read the book and seen the film.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic written review, thank you. I watched a review of this film from an Australian Movie Show..and they said the same thing. MUST see this now!!

gary13136 said...

I believe most people who have seen the movie haven't read the book, and quite possibly won't read it. I saw it first and then read the book; in fact I've read the book twice. There is a considerable (in my opinion) difference between the two. The movie was toned-down considerably. The book was much more graphic, and you could say extremely gross. I believe the director, since he was dealing with two pre-teen children, felt that he had to tone it down.

Just as an example of what was left out: Oscar had a slightly older friend who was prominent in the book; a 16 year old named Tommy. One of the scenes that really should have been in the movie involved an encounter that he had with Eli. Tommy was a glue-sniffer, and had just spent most of a night sniffing in the basement storeroom of the apartment building he lived in. Eli came in, dressed in a yellow polka-dot sundress. She then proceeded to negotiate the purchase of a liter of Tommy's blood. She counted out a substantial amount of money, and even offered more when Tommy seemed reluctant to make a deal. When Tommy found out what she wanted the blood for, he got scared, but eventually gave in. He got the money, and she got the blood. Handled properly, this scene would have been a side-splitter. It was pretty darned funny in print. Tommy even told Eli that he could take that money away from her anyway. Eli's reply was a simple "No,you couldn't."

There has been a lot mentioned about the Matt Reeve's remake. In an interview with the author, he stated that he had actually spoken with Reeves about it. He said that Reeves had told him that his version would be more faithful to the book. This pleased the author greatly. So the new version should not be just another rehash of the original.

The interesting thing about both the book and movie is that you can interpret what you see and read in different ways. For me the book is mostly about the struggle between good and evil that all human beings go through. In the end, we all hope that good will triumph.

In closing, the author said that he was preparing another book which will take up where the original ended. And, he said, with a happy ending! It would be very difficult for him to top what he has already done, but he just might be able to do it.

ToonEy said...

I have to admit I only saw this movie because of my interest in anything vampire after I read and saw Twilight. And like the host blogger I thought this movie was much better done in terms of plot line and story than Twilight. Certainly it wasn't so cheesy like Twilight.