Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let The Right One In

It seems I have been stuck in a Vampire and Werewolf rut lately. With films like Werewolf Hunter and Twilight, and my book review of New Moon, why stop? My latest venture into the genre is a recent Swedish film called Lat Den Ratte Komma In (Let The Right One In). This film, based on the book of the same name, was released in October 2008. The author, John Ajvide Lindquist, wrote both the novel and the screenplay. I have not read the book, but I would imagine the screenplay remains fairly true to the book considering this fact.

Let The Right One In begins by winning the audience over to the underdog bullied schoolkid, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant). Oskar seems likeable although obviously bookish. His withdrawn personality shows evidence of deeper issues at home. We discover that Oskar's parents Yvonne (Karin Bergquist) and Erik (Henrik Dahl) are divorced and have a lot of their own baggage. This baggage leaves little room for Oskar to bask in the affection of his parents. The bullying further represses Oskar into a caccoon. Oskar has a lot of deep emotional scars that are evident from his knife play and pretend stabbings, as well as his macabre book of eerie news clippings.

When Oskar meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), she begins their friendship by telling him they can't be friends. An interesting introduction. Oskar seems intrigued by Eli and a gradual relationship begins. At some point in the relationship, Oskar figures out that Eli is a vampire. She is twelve years old (give or take), but has been that age for an apparently long time. With Oskar's realization that Eli may be the only friend he has, the fact that she is a vampire seems to be a minor issue. The budding friendship is strained a bit when Oskar is exposed to the brutality of Eli's hunger, but he overcomes his shock and maintains good will toward his friend. The friendship begins to show positive effects as Oskar begins to defend himself from the bullying, which leads to further conflict later in the film. Let The Right One In examines relationships in a way that parallels Twilight but with a much sharper edge. The film explores relationships with some touchy subject matter to provide good drama.

The writing in Let The Right One In was strong. The pacing was a bit slow, but this film is not Hollywood, where everything seems to have an artificially fast tempo. The dialogue is translated with sub-titles. There were a couple of times where the sub-titles seemed off a bit, but I'm not certain. One particular exchange involved translating "a hole in the ice" but appeared to be written into the script. However, something in that exchange got lost in the translation. The dialogue was powerful and plausible. In this genre, shortcuts are common. You can't let anyone know a vampire is around...the vampire reveals himself/herself to the human, etc. Not in this film. Let The Right One In allows the characters to evolve without interference. Secrets are exposed and have to be covered or discovered, both of which happen. The characters are well developed and have a variety of traits that make them credible. The plot does not get off track with details and manages to provide a great deal of background with little wasted space. As a whole, the writing was excellent.

The casting was exceptional. Let The Right One In hinges on the believability of a twelve year old who may be hundreds of years old. Leandersson was phenomenal as Eli, with saucerlike blue eyes that filled her large sockets with a waifish innocence that somehow seemed twelve. Yet there were times that Leandersson's gestures, posture (and perhaps make-up) seemed many years older. Her performance was phenomenal and belieavable. Hedebrant has an instant likeability that enhances his performance. His slender build seems fragile, but his intellect appears developed. Hedebrant effectively conveyed the concept of a bullied child with inner demons that seem to escape through odd behavior that no one else seems to notice. The two had great chemistry on film. It was odd that they took a love story much like Twilight subtracted five years in age for the characters and conveyed a more convincing relationship...which is saying a lot. The rest of the cast added to the credibility of the film.

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