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Archive for January, 2010

Let The Right One In (2009)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Set in modern-day Sweden, Let The Right One In is a touching, interesting take on the greatly-jaded vampire theme. I’ve long been saying it was about time modern culture retired the stereotypical Anne Rice ‘undead aristocracy’ and explored other avenues because, after all, the parasitic nature of the beast is neither very lordly nor superior. We have had the excellent Shadow of the Vampire (2000) and of course the fragmentary-but-fun plot of 30 Days of Night, which brings us to Let the Right One In.

Oskar (played fantastically by Kåre Hedebrant) is an isolated 12 year old boy, struggling with sadistic school bullies whilst retreating further and further into his own world, which he furnishes with increasingly morbid interests in crime and violence. When he makes friends with a new girl the same age, Eli (Lina Leandersson) who has just moved into his apartment complex, he finally has an outlet for his better qualities and someone he can talk to about his private demons. Gradually, through her, he develops the confidence to attempt to deal with his problems. He begins to open up, and has something to look forward to. But there are many things Eli can’t seem to tell him. She doesn’t attend school with the others, and lives an odd life in a barely-furnished apartment. She cannot tolerate the foods he offers her, and keeps insisting that, despite their friendship, she must soon leave…

Meanwhile the man Eli referred to as ‘father’ does not return home one night, after a botched murder attempt on a local youth and a breakdown which leads him to mutilate his apprearance. Eli must now ‘take care of herself’ and, in moments of ferocious bloodletting, sates herself on the local population. Once Oskar is on on her secret he is evidently torn between his love for his new friend, his fear, and the incredible turn being taken by events.

A real triumph of the film is the high calibre of acting from both the lead roles and the supporting cast. The children’s friendship is warm, funny and believable: the film is well-scripted throughout, and you most certainly feel for the protagonists even when their behaviour is anything but model. This film is so refreshing because it is one of the first to genuinely attempt to flesh out the character of the vampire. Eli is not just a murderer, she is trapped into her existence and has no other way to survive. She craves human company, but people are also her food supply and she is not averse to masquerading as a child in peril in order to exploit this. But she is also vulnerable, lonely and charming. It is a film almost entirely amoral, with no unequivocal outcomes or value judgements. For instance, Eli’s hunger leads her to dispose of people even when they have given up so much to help her – is this also in store for Oskar, or will their friendship remain strong? We are left guessing at the end of the film.

Ultimately, this coming-of-age drama is as sweet as it is disturbing: I highly recommend it. It manages to examine adolescent awakening and the promises of friendship without degenerating into a mere gore-by-numbers blockbuster, and it perfects its own dreamlike pace, both novel and suitable. It is currently being remade and no doubt most of the original features will be toned down or tampered with – see this one.