Newest Review: ... of the more unobtrusive interludes. Fangtastic Acclaim *************** Let the Right One In has justly received plaudits from critic... more
No doubt that this is the right one for me
Let The Right One In (DVD)
Member Name: SWSt
Let The Right One In (DVD)
Advantages: Wonderful performances from two young leads, haunting atmosphere and touching tale
Disadvantages: Won't be enough blood for many; slow pace may frustrate
Imagine if someone said to you: "Fancy watching a Swedish film? With subtitles? About vampires, except it's not really about vampires at all?"
Now imagine your reaction.
You might look at them as if they had been drinking (or suggest that perhaps they should start). You might look at them like they were a little mad and nervously edge away or just laugh in their faces. I'm pretty certain of one thing, though: you'd probably say "no". Which would be a big mistake, if they were talking about Let the Right One In.
The Swedish film industry may not be quite as big and powerful as Hollywood, but on the evidence of this, it is able to make far better films.
Despite the apparent subject matter, Let the Right One In is not really either a horror film or a vampire film. Rather, it is a touching coming-of-age tale about two children, one aged 12; the other aged 12 going on 400. Both are outsiders and each, in their own way, is a victim. Oskar is being bullied at school, whilst Eli is a vampire trapped in a lonely existence with no-one to love her or be her friend.
In truth, this is not a film about bullying or vampires, it's about growing up. It's "Stand by Me" with fangs and combines that film's ideas of friendship and wistful nostalgia with themes of alienation.
The unlikely, slowly burgeoning friendship between Eli and Oskar is a joy to behold. From awkward, fumbling beginnings we see it slowly flourish into full-blown friendship where each would take huge risks to protect the other. We see how they strengthen and support each other. Each has their own needs, their own fears; and the other is capable of helping the other. Oskar gives Eli a renewed sense of self-worth and protects her from those who see her as a monster; she gives him the self-belief and confidence to stand up for himself against the bullies. In true vampiric fashion, each feeds off the other; but it is a feeding which gives strength and nourishment to both.
Set in 70s Sweden, the film is also brimming over with a visual flair which reinforces the sad, melancholic feel which affects the characters. Oskar and Eli live in a grim, grey, miserable looking tower block and everything in Sweden appears to be made of concrete. Most of the scenes either take place in the darkness, further enhancing the atmosphere of gloom and despair, or in harsh, bright lights which, when combined with the permanent snow, give the film a bleak, sterile feel. This sterile, emotionless setting contrasts well with Oskar and Eli's blooming emotions and feelings towards each other, giving the film even greater emotional resonance.
The performances from the two child actors are outstanding. They invest their performances with such emotion that within minutes of it starting, you forget the fact that you are a watching a subtitled Swedish film. Much of the time, dialogue and plot exposition are surprisingly minimal, yet both Kara Hedebrandt (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli) express far more with a single facial expression or simple grunt than most actors can with a thousand words. Their performances are both convincing and deeply moving. The scenes in which at least one of them doesn't feature are few and far between, but when they do occur, you are itching for the camera to return to them, so compelling are their performances.
It helps that both of them look slightly odd and other-worldly, making them highly believable as outsiders. Oskar, with his brutal pudding bowl haircut and buck teeth is an obvious target for school bullies whilst Eli with her pale looks and sunken eyes clearly has, in the immortal words of Ann Widdicombe, "something of the night about her".
All of these things help to create an atmosphere which is unsettling and strange. Not scary exactly, just unsettling.
Traditional horror fans are likely to be disappointed that the violence is mostly subdued and, one or two moments aside, gruesome effects are non-existent. Within the context of the film, this actually makes them more powerful, since when they do occur, they are unexpected, frenzied and mercifully (for the victims) brief. They certainly won't satisfy those who like seeing their screens painted red with blood. And as for that other Hollywood horror staple:, the nubile, pneumatic young woman taking a shower before being offed by a crazed killer? Sorry. Nowhere to be seen.
Some may pale at the seemingly slow pace of the film, which favours emotion over action. There is an almost soporific feel to proceedings. The relationship between Oskar and Eli builds slowly and takes a long time to go not very far. The film itself is limited to around half a dozen key locations, all of which look grim and depressing. If you understand the film, you will appreciate what this "slow" pace is seeking to achieve: the building of atmosphere, the growing bond of trust between Eli and Oskar, the development of their parasitic/mutually dependent relationship. If you understand that, then you will appreciate Let the Right One In for the stunning film it is. If you just want blood, guts and boobs, you're going to eject it after about 20 minutes.
You do need to know a little vampire lore, as some key concepts are incorporated but never explained. Eli, for example, cannot enter a house unless invited in- a common part of vampire tales and a rule adhered to here. Somewhat sloppily, Mrs SWSt has not been keeping up on her vampire lore, so I had to keep stopping the film to explain the significance of certain elements. If you don't have this, don't let it put you off watching, since the key theme is the touching relationship between Oskar and Eli, but certainly some knowledge will help you appreciate the carefully woven story even more.
Let the Right One In is a beautiful film, full of gorgeous visuals and a compelling, fascinating central relationship between two outsiders. It's not what you would expect from a vampire film, but is all the more powerful because of it and it's one of a few films that everyone should be legally obliged to watch!
Apart from the obvious answer of "money", it's hard to see why Hollywood has decided to remake this in because there is not the remotest possibility that it will be even a tenth as good. Certainly, I will not be watching it.
So, here's the moral of today's review. If someone asks you "Fancy watching a Swedish film? With subtitles? About vampires, except it's not really about vampires at all?" then for goodness sake, SAY YES.
Let the Right One In
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Running time: approx. 115 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Summary: Why would Hollywood even think about remaking this?