Monday, 4 February 2013


“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.” - Benjamin Disraeli

We watched the 2008 Tomas Alfredson film “Let the Right One In” yesterday. This is a Swedish film based on the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel, and stars Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragnar. It is an unconventional vampire tale, but the vampirism is not the main theme, it’s almost incidental. There is subtle horror and tragedy, however, the film is about mainly friendship, loyalty. love and schoolyard bullying.

The film is set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982 and concerns Oskar (Hedebrant), a bullied 12-year old boy. He is quite powerless to face up to the bullies as he lacks courage, only being able to dream of revenge. He meets Eli (Leandersson), a peculiar girl who lives in the flat next door. She is really strange: She doesn’t seem to feel the bitter winter cold, can’t stand the sun, is unable to eat food and in order enter a room she must to be invited in. Eli gives Oskar the strength to hit back but when he realises that Eli needs to drink other people’s blood to survive he is faced with a tough choice. How much can Oskar forgive once he becomes aware that as well being repelled by Eli, he also loves her…

The young lead actors are remarkable, giving performances that are restrained, subtly nuanced and displaying perfect chemistry between them. Similarly, production values are wonderful, with excellent technical care throughout. Lighting is fantastic, the original music by Johan Soderqvist quite appropriate, and Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography is remarkable. This is not a cheap thrills horror movie, but a carefully crafted Hitchcockian tale with a tense psychological underpinning.

Although there is considerable violence in the film, it is not of the gratuitous type and one feels that it is absolutely necessary for the telling of the tale. The use of children to convey the gristliness of the tale is quite a masterstroke and one is reminded constantly of how cruel childhood can be. But there is also the yearning for friendship and acceptance and love that children (as well as adults!) need. The film is quite masterful cinematically, and thematically one almost rues the fact that a vampire has to be involved in the story – it somehow cheapens it, and yet it absolves the heroine in a wayward manner.

The film begs comparison with other vampire tales and movies. However, it would be doing it an injustice to be compared with the likes of the popular and quite dreadful “Twilight” series or the old and now rather caricature-like Hammer horror battle-axes. The 2010 remake “Let me In” by Matt Reeves is the one film that one should compare it with, however, I have not seen this one. If one gives credit to IMDB scores, the original Swedish film is scored at 8.0, while the remake is scored at 7.2. Perhaps I shall have a look at the new version in a few months time…

Do have a look at the original Swedish version, it is quite good and represents excellent film-making, although it is slow and it does deal with a strange mixture of themes and myths. It goes to show, I guess, that one can make an engaging and wonderful film about anything at all. Rather like Mozart setting his laundry list to exquisite music.

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