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KNOWING ME, GNAWING YOU
Let The Right One In (DVD)
Member Name: ROGERTHEDODGER
Let The Right One In (DVD)
Date: 01/01/12, updated on 01/01/12 (89 review reads)
Advantages: ATMOSPHERIC FILM WITH REMARKABLE ACTING PERFORMANCES
Disadvantages: MAYBE A LITTLE TOO SLOW FOR SOME.SOMETIMES MORE SWEET THAN HORRIFIC.
Sweden has a long tradition of fine film-making, from Bergman up to the Millennium trilogy (_The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo_ et al). Let the Right One In sees our Scandinavian neighbours dipping a bloodied toe into the pool of the horror genre. What sets it apart from many other offerings in this field however are the wonderfully understated performances, use of real-time pace and atmospheric location. This slow-burn, low-key treatment juxtaposed with the film's more shocking moments only serves to heighten our anticipation and 'enjoyment'. Such a muted approach appears to be prevalent amongst many other of, director, Alfredson's compatriot film makers. This does seem a tad ironic from the country that brought us the bold, brassy branding of Ikea, the tank-like build of the Volvo, and the power-packed pop of ABBA!
Twelve year old Oskar is a pale sickly-looking blond boy who ploughs a lonely existence in his small, snowy suburban village. He is frequently home alone as his mother struggles to provide for them by working nights. What's more, his disconnect from society makes it hard for him to get by at school, where he is remorselessly targeted by bullies. Out of the blue, he meets the mysterious Eli and they form a tender yet ever-growing friendship. Their union is mutually beneficial, particularly for Oskar as he learns to gain confidence and stand up for himself. Meanwhile, a spate of grisly incidents are taking place in the locality. Oskar susses Eli's connection to these events along with her murky secret. Their joint dilemma now lies in facilitating Eli's departure to avoid inevitably tragic consequences. Should they stay or should they go? The monotony of everyday life is offset brilliantly by the grislier moments, as we are ferried towards one of the most suspenseful and ingeniously realised cinematic endings that you will ever see!
The film is really all about two characters, Oskar and Eli. Sure, there are others who nip the periphery but the aforementioned are central to the whole storyline.
Oskar is a pallid, weakly-looking 12 year old and, as mentioned above, something of an outsider.
Eli is the antithesis to Oskar in every way. She is ballsy, strong-willed and fearless. Visually too, she has jet black hair.
Both young actors turn in peerless performances. Oskar is perfect as the understated and peculiar outsider. Their apposite personalities and appearances conjure up a yin and yang-like mix. We discover that even Oskar has a bit of a dark side while, conversely, Eli has many redeeming features, despite her clandestine creepiness. We see Oskar pasting press cuttings about the local murders into a somewhat sinister scrapbook, the content of which also comprises images of knives. More understandably, we see him re-enacting imaginary confrontations with his schoolyard tormenters, plunging his knife into tree trunks like a tiny Travis Bickle. Oskar is distinct from much of the herd and this is also foreshadowed during a community policeman's visit to the school. He immediately deconstructs and diagnoses quite a complicated crime scene conundrum set by the officer, who appears impressed, yet mildly disturbed, at the boy's precocity in this field.
Eli is difficult to warm to, initially, as she snippily short-circuits any hope of a burgeoning friendship with Oskar. The latter wonders aloud at her 'funny smell' and unsuitable clothing, (short -sleeved shirt) in the freezing temperature of the courtyard. However, it soon becomes evident that smelly Eli does not possess a heart of stone as she expresses tearful vulnerability over the malodourous accusation and later shows remorse over other unsavoury incidents. There is great subtlety in their development. For instance, there is a foreshadowing of Oskar's inherent backbone when he refutes Eli's suggestion that he leave the courtyard. He tells her that she should leave as he has lived there far longer than her. Although seemingly insignificant, you sense this is almost a cathartic moment for Oskar, as he has been used to fielding bullying blows without reply. A beautiful touch, and one that is easy to miss, is his ever-so-slight smile as he turns away from her.
It seems that in Eli, he has found an unlikely kindred spirit and someone with whom he can converse on equal terms. This in turn forges an inner strength and growing confidence.
Into View with the Vampire
Let the Right One In is as much a tender love story as it is a vampire or a horror film. This is based on the foundations of a hard won trust -especially where Eli is concerned. The formative meetings are awkward but direct, as is often the case with kid. The development of the friendship is beautifully measured, credible and realised. Massively constrained by parental control and, in particular, Eli's considerable requirements, they prove that love can conquer all. The communication problem is addressed by tapping Morse code on their adjoining wall. They find sanctuary in a disused warehouse room. Despite Oskar's weediness I got the impression that Eli is most taken by the fact that he seems unfazed by her dark secrets - secrets that would make most mortals run a country mile. He knows all this about her, and still likes her. The innocence and awkwardness of youth are also impressively captured. One particular instance of this is when Oskar drums up the courage to ask Eli if they can 'go steady'. The conversation is realistic enough to make you cringe, albeit in the nicest possible sense. The strength of their union is such that I found myself willing them to pull through, in spite of the heinous crimes committed. However, the fact that such crimes are undertaken out of need rather than wanton desire makes them almost, dare I say it, acceptable. Oskar would like nothing more than to be seen out and about with Eli but the ongoing events necessitate that she limits her public appearances.
As mentioned, the relationship brings into view another side of Oskar. He learns to stand up for himself with Eli, his mother and, most gratifyingly, his bullies. We also see a great positive development in Eli who hitherto seemed shackled by shame. In Oskar she has found someone who loves her for being her and this is reflected in her uplifted demeanour. The scene where Oskar puts on a record for Eli and invites her to try on one of his mother's dresses is one of the most simultaneously sweet yet geeky ones I have ever seen. Oskar's dancing makes even me look good!
Let the Right One In is more substantially layered than most horror films and, for me, the overriding themes comprise friendship, love, loyalty and bullying. The friendship forged between Oskar and Eli is beautifully realised. It could be argued that the cause and effect of parental neglect is also evident, particularly in how it affects the development , or lack thereof, of Oskar's social skills.
The power of friendship through his chance meeting with Eli leads to the development of Oskar's psychological backbone and much more.
Although they make uncomfortable viewing, the bullying scenes are convincingly played out. The tormentors are portrayed by the archetypal ring leader and his two typically spineless hangers on. Conny, the main protagonist, is played with unflinching verve by Patrik Rydmark. His apparent insouciance is truly repulsive. The other two, despite their cowardice, do show some redeeming features either by crying or feebly remonstrating with Conny and a later tormentor. Even Conny shows a glimmer of humanity towards the end when the cruelty becomes too much even for him to bear.
We're on the Edge of Gory
The originality of the film seems to be a recurring constant among critics. I believe that this is due to the fact that an endearing tenderness imbues the production in portraying friendship between the two main protagonists. One of my first reactions was that the film is quite sweet, and is often more aahhh than aargh! The performances are so convincing that you feel that such activity is perfectly normal. There is none of the gratuitousness that we find in many horror flicks, or the OTT ramped- up, vamped-up comic/horror that we find in such series as True Blood. Yet I feel that there is something far more sinister in the sheer normality of Let the Right One In that evades the more graphic examples of the genre.
Although there are plenty of shocking visuals here, the effect is equally conveyed by the power of suggestion. For instance, one attack takes place behind a bathroom door. Only when the victim's bloodied hand rigidly clamps the outer doorframe, do we know that the struggle is truly over.
Another disturbing moment involves a posse of pussycats encircling a newly converted vampire. The felines become fiendishly feral in a scene that smacks more of Hammer House than art house, but is nevertheless highly effective.
When all there is to see is blood and guts, I soon become de-sensitized to any shockability factor therein. This film, however, is more rewarding and shocking to me as the characters are so well developed that I almost feel drawn to a duty of care for them. Furthermore, the horrific events are all the more explicit when contrasted with the context of their, erstwhile, humdrum existence. This probably isn't for those who measure their ratings of horror films by the pints of blood spilled. It undoubtedly breaks the mould of the vampire/horror genre in that it embraces so many other aspects of the human condition in such a serenely poetic way.
I feel that a major contributing factor to this film's success is the choice of location. From the opening scene amid the snowy silver birch trees, we are assailed with a sense of sparse Stockholm suburbia. The setting is a town called Blackeberg which, we learn from the commentary, is where original author, John Ajvide Lindqvist, was raised.
. The atmospheric snowscapes provide a muffled backdrop to the imminent blood-curdling screams about to infiltrate the civilised calm.
The scenery is almost meditative. The brilliant snow scenes nicely offset both the physical and psychological darkness in the film. I am not sure if this is a conscious filmic device, but it certainly resonates to perfect effect.
In keeping with much of the film's treatment the music is extremely understated, to the extent that it is often almost imperceptible. However, it greatly complements the visuals and helps to enhance the mood and atmosphere of the film. The aural tension is cranked up in all the right places and stands out as a useful signal against the backdrop of the more unobtrusive interludes.
Let the Right One In has justly received plaudits from critics the world over, receiving more than forty awards in the process. A sticker on the cover of my DVD bullishly blurbs:
'The film that inspired Let Me In. Own the original and the best.'
Bravo! The above quote is a reference to the American re-make. Why do they have to do this, and so soon after the original? The attempted duplication of an original invariably falls short. I've not seen the re-make and, while I believe it has received good reviews, I feel that my viewing experience of it would be tainted by the unethical reasoning behind it. Does Hollywood think that we are really so insular and stupid that we can not follow subtitles and/or embrace other cultures? It may be a back-handed compliment to the Swedish film industry, but I feel that this patronising and insular spoon-feeding smacks of xenophobia. It's nice to have the occasional break from Brand USA. Ergo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
With my spleen now suitably vented, here are a few salubrious sound bytes about Let the Right One In:
"Brutal and brilliant...you've never seen anything like this before..." Daily Mirror
"Best horror film of the year". Empire
"One of the most wonderful horror films I have ever seen". Billy Chainsaw, Bizarre
"A full bloodied vampire feast." Total Film
"A true original. Stunning". Little White Lies
'A chilling fairytale. As delicate, haunting and poetic a film as you're ever bound to see."
Guillermo Del Toro, Director of Pan's Labyrinth
"Spectacularly beautiful". New York Times
"An instant classic. Don't miss this". ***** Empire
Let the Right One In is a truly superb film which melds an unlikely love story with the vampire and horror genres. I have also found that the viewing experience is actually enhanced by repeat viewings - a sure sign of a classic. The scenery, plot, casting and acting are absolutely flawless and, if that were not enough, the finale is an ending to end all endings. Terrific.
Commentary by director Tomas Alfredson and original author John Ajvide Lindqvist
Running time: 110 minutes
Unlike many commentaries I have watched this one is truly interesting and insightful. It is well alternated between Alfredson and Lindqvist and is interesting to see the different perspectives offered by both creator and interpreter.
One of the most striking features is the meticulous attention to detail that is taken in conveying realism in everything from special effects to period detail. For instance, the commentary opens with Alfredosn divulging the intricate methods employed to suggest the sound of snowfall. Although this seems impossible the suggestion is captured by recording the sound of bubbles in a bottle of mineral water at a very high resolution.
We also learn of the attention to detail in conveying Swedish suburbia in the early eighties. This is done via references such as a Rubik's cube, Oskar's 'floor-mop' hairdo, and the design of the playground climbing frame. Furthermore, we learn that the policeman's, drug-awareness, school visit is very typical of that time.
They conduct the commentary with affable humour, much of it sparked by 80s nostalgia. I would imagine that this particular feature is extremely helpful for film and media students.
*Just a footnote. The commentary option can be enabled/disabled via the set up option. The commentary will then play automatically if enabled. I personally like to watch the film first so,if you do too, I advise that you ensure it is disabled, and then enable to view after you have seen the main feature.
Running time: 5:23 (minutes/seconds)
These comprise four short scenes.
1. This features Conny and his tacit accomplice subjecting Oskar to physical and verbal bullying in the school toilets. The commentary reveals that this scene was cut as it came too soon in the film. Alfredson did not want too much violence too soon, as he wanted the pressure to build. This is one area that differs from the book.
2. A tender scene that sees Oskar playfully tapping Eli's back to the mantra of Hickory Dickory Dock.
3. This scene shows Virginia in a feverish, alcohol-fuelled soliloquy. The red wine is then projectile-vomited into her own sink......lovely!
4. Oskar slaps a supine Eli across the face -seemingly to bring her round. They then playfully enact a game of what can only be described as snarl-tennis!
Running time: 1:24 (minutes/seconds)
A well-edited trailer which contracts all the action scenes into a minute. This inevitably betrays the poetic resonance of the film as a whole, but I suppose trailers are there to put bums on seats- or DVDs in shopping baskets in this case. It is also shot through with salivating snippets from film reviews the world over.
Oskar - Kåre Hedebrant
Eli - Lina Leandersson
Hakan - Per Ragnar
Lacke - Peter Carlberg
Virginia - Ika Nord
Erik - Henrik Dahl
Yvonne - Karin Bergquist
Feature Running Time
110 minutes approx.
Dolby Digital 5.1
Descriptive audio track for the visually impaired.
English (hard of hearing) feature only
*It is worth noting that there is no dubbed option
DVD 9: Dual layer single sided discs
Feature aspect ratio
16:9 (original aspect ratio 2.35:1) Widescreen version
*THIS REVIEW HAS ALSO BEEN POSTED ON CIAO UNDER THE USERNAME FLOCKOFSEAGULLS.
Summary: FOR ME, THE FILM IS FLAWLESS - WITH AN ENDING TO DIE FOR!