January 25, 2012

Låt den rätte komma in (Sweden 2008)

"Let the right one in" is a film full of contradictions. Tender yet brutal, beautiful yet gritty, realistic yet supernatural. Like many other great films, it is also not immediately classifiable in any common genre. Is it a vampire/horror movie, a slice of social realism or a coming-of-age film? Probably a little bit of everything but for me it is mostly a sublimely touching love story between two lonely outsiders. But if it is then it is a love story for people who don't like love stories just as it is a horror movie for people who don't like horror movies.

The film is directed with delicate empathy by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. It seems implausible that he mostly worked for Swedish Television before this film since "Let the right one in" is so cinematic. There are some shocking scenes but the director is careful not to overdo it. To the dismay of some readers of the original novel, the hints on pedophilia that were much more present in the source, have been toned down. But since the novel's author John Ajvide Lindquist also wrote the screenplay, we can assume that he is perfectly fine with it. And the film proves that the open dealing with such dark subjects is not necessary anyway: under Alfredson's subtle direction, we can already sense that there is something wrong in a society that is constructed around the dominance of the alpha male.

The music in the film is extraordinarily beautiful - it is no coincidence that composer Johan Söderqvist is credited right after the director. It further enhances the atmosphere already created by the brilliant use of bleak winterly locations in and around Stockholm. The performances by the two young leads are great too. They both display a vulnerability while also hiding a latent violence under the innocent surface. It says a lot that the human boy and the vampire girl are essentially treated as equals. The female may - as always - be the stronger one but is the boy who acts out the violence by choice and not by destiny. In this world - the films seems to suggest - everyone needs to be a vampire to survive.

"Let the right one in" is a unique, extraordinary and incredibly touching film. It is a bittersweet tale of loneliness and alienation that transcends genre limitations to become something greater.


To die for: Lina Leandersson as "Eli"

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