17 November 2010

Let the Right One In

And so, finally, I got to see Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in, 2008), though through no thanks to Netflix.The film was indeed less of a vampire film and more of a coming-of-age story, focusing heavily on the relationship between the 12-year-old boy Oskar and the seemingly 12-year-old girl Eli who is, in fact, a vampire.

Growing older vs. forever young
In some ways, it almost seemed like the vampire piece was irrelevant, but that's not entirely true. It is important to the narrative and adds complexity to Oskar and Eli's relationship. However, much of Oskar's development is more directly tied to their friendship (and early stages of courtship) than to the fact that Eli is a vampire. Interestingly, Eli is a bit more static. Yes, she changes in regards to how open she is with Oskar, but she never really matures in the way that Oskar does. As she says to Oskar, "I'm 12 years old. I've been 12 years old for a long time."

The main character of the story is most certainly Oskar, and in the first scenes of the film, I actually thought that he was the vampire. The film begins with him in his room, stabbing his knife at the air and growling, "Squeal! Squeal like a pig!" He is somewhat pale and awkward, with longer hair. He is also the subject to some rather nasty bullying from other kids in his class, which he usually writes to his superiors as accidents on the playground or the like.

The darkness within
So why is Eli a vampire? Sure, it adds a little to the relationship, but not too much in and of itself. However, in some ways, it provides a visual, long-running metaphor for the darker sides of humanity. During their time together, Eli encourages Oskar to stand up for himself against the bullies. The moment finally occurs during a field trip to go skating on an icy pond. The bullies threaten to push Oskar into the cold water, but he tells them to stay back or he'll use a pole he found. They try to call his bluff, and the leader (Conny) steps forward, only to get severely whacked on the ear, causing lasting damage.

Despite Conny's shouts and the blood coursing from the side of his head, the scene becomes oddly tranquil and liberating. Oskar stands with his head held high, free from their tyranny. Of course, the animosity has done anything but subsided, and increasing hostilities aren't fair off.

Where do we go from here [SPOILERS]
The film's ending is fairly open and somewhat uneasy. The violence escalates when Conny's older brother Jimmy stages revenge against Oskar, forcing him to hold his breath under water in the pool for three minutes or else lose his eye in exchange for Conny's ear. We go beneath the water's surface with Oskar, and after some tense silence, we hear commotion faintly above before Jimmy's dessicated head and arm drop into the pool. Eli has come to save Oskar, and we cut away to a train. Oskar sits with a large wooden box in which Eli hides to protect her from the sunlight. The two of them are escaping to a new life together. Ultimately, it would seem that the dark side has been embraced, perhaps without any consequences.

However, we may remember Håkan, the older man who protected and killed for Eli at the beginning of the film, and ultimately gave his life for her. Is this where Oskar is heading? Is he the next Håkan? And is that a good or a bad thing? A lot of it is left up to the viewer to decide. Like a good horror film, it enters a certain level of murky morality and taboo ethics that would be far, far harder to handle in a film set directly in reality. Horror films allow us to step back from more taboo subjects and deal with them in a safer light. After all, it's a vampire film. And can you really take those that seriously? Certainly, the film is a good conversation starter, and for that reason it's hard to write about at length in this monologue-esque format. So if anyone else out there has seen this film and would like to talk to me about it, hit me up. Of course, we can do some in comments, or if you know my personally, we can do it elsewhere. Perhaps over a few beers?


  1. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's beautifully written, beautifully shot, beautifully acted. So amazing.

    Naturally Hollywood is already remaking it for Amurricans who don't want to read no dad-gum subtitles... or something... Ugh.

  2. I actually just found out that the remake has been released very recently. Apparently it got generally favourable reviews and the author of the original book approved of it. However, critics who didn't like it point out that it's basically the original Swedish movie reshot almost scene-by-scene with an English cast (though somehow including even less detail and complexity).

    I'd be interested to see it for myself. Ultimately, though, it seems pretty redundant, as apparently the US release of the Swedish version even includes an English dub.

    So yeah. I'm glad to hear that, supposedly, they didn't actually mangle it. But it also seems like it's a pretty pointless release.