Friday, May 01, 2009

Låt Den Rätte Komma In / Let The Right One In

Pseudo-horror erotic-tween fest ‘Twilight’, which recently saw giggling girls drag friends and boyfriends to in order for them to swoon over bad-boy-pretty-boy killed off from Harry Potter, despite its mass success, is an utter waste of time. Fans of the dearly beloved Transylvanian blood-sucker, and fans of films that are any good were left disappointed. Though as both the film and its original ‘saga’ of books have attained high praise from the audience they were marketed at, approaching ‘Twilight’ as the grand return of vampires to film is almost certainly the wrong approach.

‘Låt Den Rätte Komma In’ was released January of last year, though thanks to time being taken in both subtitling the film, and getting it out to the local independent Art House Cinema, it thankfully didn’t slip under my radar. The plot (set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in the early 1980s) follows the endeavors of the bullied and lonesome 12 year old Oskar. Upon meeting the enigmatic Eli, a girl of his age who claims she ‘cannot be his friend’ (probably because she’s a vampire), and the dead bodies drained of blood suddenly cropping up all over the place, the story quickly finds motion. As the audience watches the relationship between the two develop , they also bear witness to the personal effects that the extraordinary situation has on all of the film’s characters.

The initial strength of the story is the fact that it never truly reveals it’s ace. John Ajvide Lindqvist (author of both the screenplay and original novel) makes no references to ‘vampires’ at all (except in one moment….the movie’s lowest point). The film’s low budget doesn’t allow for the glossy blockbuster effect that Twilight had, as an ensemble cast of vampires flew around saving the day with an anti-heroic arrogance that made you want to slap some sense into every girl in the auditorium . Tomas Alfredson’s directing takes on a much more artistic and subtle approach, often leaving the mind to fill in the gaps thanks to old school cinematography tricks. This isn’t to say the film isn’t gory. Throats are mercilessly slit, bodies humourously burnt, and limbs jovially decapitated. But the absence of many computer effects, and the brutality in which these acts are suddenly portrayed adds such a faultless reality to the film they’re almost curiously captivating.

The Director’s framing gives the film a beautiful yet dark tone, contrasting brilliantly with the innocence and light that the children bring to the fore. Mixed in within this though are a series of subtle hints to the way that Eli is forced to live her life. Forbidden from exposure to sunlight, cold-blooded, beastlike when the scent of blood hits her nose, and dependant on the mysterious handler caring for her, tasked to collect the blood for her to consume. It’s this that makes the vampire theme work so well, and not fall into the clichés associated with other vampire horror flicks.

Following this pattern, the absence of any true heroes in the story builds on the hopeful yet bleak reality conveyed for such an out of the ordinary scenario. Playing a character who shows notable flaws is no easy feat, and the child acting was highly accomplished with this in mind. Supporting actors also proved competent, though it’s sometimes challenging to gauge with subtitled films as so much more attention is put to the words on the screen rather than how lines are being delivered. Lina Leandersson’s Eli was notably excellent, and somewhat reminiscent of Ivana Baquero’s performance as Ofelia in Guiellermo Del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’.

It’s difficult to bring up the more negative sides of Låt Den Rätte Komma In. Partly because there were few, and partly because the faults lie very much at the end of the story, which if discussed would spoil the first two thirds of the film. Spoilers avoided, the final act sees the introduction of two more plotlines, which if introduced earlier would have probably worked better within the film. The simplicity of the film’s setup is suddenly cluttered too quickly and after the plot has spent time building up what seems to be a coming of age story, suddenly appears otherwise with an ending which although fine, felt like it could have also gone in a different direction for it’s conclusion.

Låt Den Rätte Komma In has now been released on BluRay and DVD in the US, with simplified subtitles that don’t match the more accurate theatrical subtitles. Apparently the publishing company have no fixed this issue after complaints, but be aware there are two floating around. This aside, it feels a disservice to tell you to avoid this film. It’s certainly not for everyone (people who dislike- blood/people from Sweden/snow/more blood/slightly odd haircuts/vampires). But it’s a genre that has been re-approached from such an original and refreshing viewpoint, and presented with such a confidence, that it would be a crime to miss out on.

Put in your fangs and go see Låt Den Rätte Komma In (English title: Let The Right One In)…

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