Sunday, March 22, 2009

What If..."Twilight" was re-made for scrawny Swedish boys?

Let the Right One In (2008)
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John Lindqvist
made in Sweden

Kare Hedebrant (Oskar)
Lina Leandersson (Eli)

Let the Right One In is the film adaptation of a novel also written by Lindqvist. Set in the early 1980s, the story focuses on a wimpy, 12-year-old boy named Oskar who lives with his mother in the working class town of Blackeberg. Bookish and isolated from his classmates, Oskar is regularly picked on by a group of bullies and spends his evenings fantasizing about revenge. This seemingly mundane story takes on a supernatural dimension when a mysterious, androgynous girl named Eli moves in next door. Her older male companion begins to kill people and drain them of blood, and it quickly becomes apparent that Eli is a vampire. But even a little bloodsucking can't get in the way of a blossoming romance between two adolescents. The title is a reference to a bit of vampire lore that says that vampires cannot enter a home unless they're invited.

On a superficial level, this movie is cut from the same cloth as Twilight. It's a dark, moody romance starring a social outcast who falls in love with a vampire. The similarities end there, as Let the Right One In is both a more daring story and a far more impressive film. The script touches upon a number of sexual taboos that would likely have made it unfilmable in the U.S. The relationship between Eli and her male companion, Hakan, is never explained but there are strong suggestions of paedophilia, or some type of quid pro quo for his aid in obtaining blood. The movie also toys with definitions of sexuality and orientation. There is a brief, but rather shocking, scene late in the film that explains why Eli is rather androgynous-looking. Another aspect of the story that would likely have scared away American producers is the violence. While the movie is not particular gorey, quite a bit of the violence involves children, especially during the blood-soaked climax.

Alfredson's direction is, for the most part, superb. I've never been to Sweden, but this film is the enemy of Swedish tourism. Alfredson portrays the Swedish winter as this oppressive veil of snow and gloom that is present throughout the movie. Gorgeous wide-shots capture the natural beauty of the Swedish countryside, but it is always covered in a layer of ice. Most of these outdoor scenes are filmed using deep focus, giving the viewer an expansive view. However, many of the indoor scenes use shallow focus, creating a sense of claustrophobia, particularly inside the cramped, Soviet-style apartments. Many of the nighttime scenes are especially well-done, and Alfredson makes excellent use of contrast and dark space. Admittedly, much of my appreciation for the film's beauty may be due to seeing it on Blu-Ray. This is a far better advertisement for a getting a PS3 than any game Sony has put out.

The only real problems with the film are the sometimes overly-awkward acting by the Kare Hedebrant (Oskar) and some poorly done CGI involving cats. But neither of these issues detract from the film's strengths.

I highly recommend this film, but suggest watching it with subtitles, as the English dub is rotten.

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