Sunday, 28 March 2010

Let the Right One In: A Vampire Film with Bite


Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), 2008

For the most part, Let the Right One In is a masterpiece of understatement. Whereas ‘vampire’ in Western culture has become a by-word for the angst ridden anti-heroes that populate the books of Stephanie Meyer and Anne Rice, Eli, the vampire that Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In focuses on, is mercenary and unapologetic.

To further complicate things, Eli possesses the body of a twelve year old.

The film starts by detailing the plight of Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a pre-pubescent boy living an isolated existence in the snow bound Sweden of the early 1980s. He is victimized by his class-mates, who are confident he will keep silent despite their abuses of him. He is for the most ignored by his parents, and spends most of his time alone mulling over plans of revenge. Instead, he finds solace in Eli (Lina Leandersson) who he first sees sitting on the climbing frame outside the apartment block where he lives. Like Oskar, Eli is quiet and softly spoken and they quickly forge a bond.

Let the Right One In sets establishes a series of oppositions, the most marked being that of innocence and culpability. The innocent relationship that develops between Oskar and Eli is tested when he discovers his friend’s nature, and their relationship is re-set against a backdrop of blood, murder and revenge.


The direction displays great style and subtlety; the slow, contemplative shots of the snow entrenched landscapes the characters inhabit generate an atmosphere of stillness and mystery. A mood of strangeness and unease is also established by juxtaposing cloying pop melodies (such as ABBA-star Agnetha Fälkstog’s Försonade*) with scenes of violence and blood-lust.

The acting from both the young leads is outstanding, and both Hedebrant and Leandersson are at their most effective when they are silent and allow their faces to speak for them. It is especially to Leandersson’s credit that the physical aspects of her performance are so effective, for her voice was dubbed over by another actress.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is the ambiguities it establishes about Eli’s gender. Although Eli appears feminine and wears female clothes, ‘she’ responds to Oskar’s questions about her gender with riddles. ‘Her’ true gender remains uncertain throughout the film, and by the time the film had ended I was left with the impression Eli’s gender was irrelevant to the love developing between ‘her’ and Oskar.

The heart of Let the Right One In lies in the issue of Oskar’s relationship with Eli. Does Eli care for him? Or is ‘she’ merely using him to facilitate her survival? The answer is left to the viewer’s imagination.

The only fault of the film is its sometimes unconvincing special effects, which are particularly noticeable in a scene where a swarm of cartoonish CGI cats launch themselves on a woman. However, the lack of technical sophistication does not detract from the strength of the storytelling and direction.

Let the Right One In is the perfect antidote for anyone tired of declawed vampire yarns such as Twilight and The Vampire Diaries.

* The title translates as ‘Forgiveness’ (some sources say ‘Reconciled’).

1 comment:

  1. I think the book is awasome and its officially my favorite mystery/ terror novel of the world