IMDB #232 Let The Right One In

Next up is an amazing 2008 Swedish film, Let The Right One In, a popular but so far obscure film not even eligible for the Best Foreign Language Oscar until next year- in fact, it was never in more than 53 theaters in this country, so hardly anyone has seen it (legally, anyway).

The Key Players:

Director: Tomas Alfredson. Writer: John Lindqvist, adapting his own novel. They are surely famous for other things in the Swedish language of which I am scarcely aware, because I am a Midwestern American yokel.

Our stars are two previously unknown child actors, Kare Hedebrant as our young protagonist Oskar, and Lina Leandersson as Eli, his mysterious new neighbor.

The Story:

Oskar is a boy of twelve who shares time with divorced parents, and gets bullied at school by a pretty typical douchebag-bully type. He spends evenings playing alone in the snowy, quiet courtyard of his mother’s apartment complex, until he meets Eli, the girl next door, that is very pale, and doesn’t need to wear warm clothes for some reason.

This is because she’s a vampire (not really a spoiler), but also still sort of a twelve year old like our hero. She lives with a caretaker that seems to love her greatly, to the degree that we see him make several botched attempts to murder innocent people for her to feed on, before getting caught. This leaves Eli unsupervised to get her own food, all the while striking up a friendship of quiet companionship with Oskar.

Then it becomes sort of two pretty standard stories blended together, as we see Oskar growing confidence from this new alliance, and the townsfolk slowly become aware that people are disappearing for a reason. But how will these two threads collide?

The Artisticness:

I’ve never been to Sweden, but this film makes you feel the cold- it opens with a minutes long shot of falling snow, and pays plenty of attention to the beauty of the white landscape in Oskar’s city. In fact, this film is nearly entirely in white and at night, which only make the swatches of red and daylight stand out more starkly.

It’s also not afraid to let the story unfold at its own pace- the long opening fade into snow is a good indicator of the willingness to let the events tell themselves.

The only bum note would be some pretty shaky CGI in places, but it passes quickly and I can’t imagine the budget was terribly high. Otherwise, even the child acting seemed great to me (though this could be behind the mask of subtitles- it can often cloud bad performances, or so my friend who knows Mandarin once told me about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

THE ENDING! SPOILERS WITH TEETH (Okay, that was terrible)

So Eli is tracked down by a vengeful villager right after Oskar discovers she’s a vampire, but he warns her in time to get the better of the guy. She then has to flee the town before there are mobs with torches and so forth.

Meanwhile, Oskar has clouted his bully on the ear, which results in the bully’s even douchier older brother coming to threaten him with a switchblade while Oskar is in the pool. He tells our hero if he can hold his breath for three minutes, he’ll just nick him, but if he can’t, he’ll lose an eye. And he holds Oskar’s head under the water, and we expect the worst because this has been sort of a gruesome film so far.

But then Eli comes to the rescue, and the way in which she does so is framed in one of the best shots of the year. It’s an awesome sequence, you just have to trust me. Oskar and Eli then run off on a train for parts unknown (Eli, being hundreds of years old, is pretty wealthy). Happily ever after?


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Well, it’s already climbed above 200, so we’ll let the people decide where it ends up eventually I suppose. But I love particularly the way it just decides to be a coming of age film and a vampire film at the same time, and doesn’t really worry that that might not make sense. It just tells a story.

The Legacy:

Well, because it was released after September 30 in Sweden, it won’t be eligible for the Best Foreign Language Oscar until next year's ceremony, which is goofy. But it’s won a bunch of other things and appeared on a crazy number of top ten lists from critic.

And it’s going to be immediately remade in English (sigh), which everyone who’s seen it is up in arms about. But hopefully it’ll just expose more people to this film, in the end.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

Well, the studio behind the film is pretty good at flagging down anything that’s not a trailer, but check out this clip of the two meeting for the second time- note that half of the clip is silence and snow. Also note that vampires, much like Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluators, are aces at solving Rubik’s Cubes.

Leftover Thoughts:

  • (more spoilers) The movie makes is pretty clear, upon re-watching, that Eli isn’t even a girl to begin with, that he(?)’s a castrated boy. But it’s all the same to Oskar, really. The novel also makes it clear that the adult provider from earlier was a pedophile essentially trading services with the vampire- the movie leaves this obscure and makes it seem like Oskar will eventually grow into a devoted servant and meet the same fate. (end spoilers)
  • New awesome addition to the rules of vampires in this story- what happens when vampires enter homes uninvited.
  • I like that, unless I missed it, nobody says or mentions something similar to the title, but it’s easy to apply.

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