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Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: Let The Right One In

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Screenplay: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Year: 2008

“Let The Right One In”, original title “Låt Den Rätte Komma In”, captivated the followers of horror cinema in 2008 to, more than a cult movie, become a contemporary classic. Although it generated some detractors, there were much more that enjoyed its cold and subtle style of presenting a vampire story intertwined with childhood innocence and coming of age. This movie is base on the self-titled novel by  John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the script for the movie, which I haven’t read, so I will avoid doing any comparison to keep from saying anything absurd.

In “Let The Right One In” we witness the strange relationship between Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), the former a young boy reaching adolescence and the former a vampire girl who has lived the same age for far too long. Eli moves to the same apartment complex where Oskar lives, a shy boy victim of bullying, with whom she starts to develop a friendship. While Eli’s hunger gets out of control, their friendship becomes stronger and the secret of who she really is threatens to be discovered. 

If there is something that characterizes this movie, besides the copious amount of snow, it’ its subtlety. The way in which the story is told only shows some things and leaves the viewer to reach its own conclusions. From the get-go, this can seem like a problem of a badly written script, but later you realize it is intentional and makes the viewer have a different experience while re-watching it. The violence is another aspect that is worked with elegance and subtlety, showing only what’s necessary to understand what’s going on, but still being visually shocking.

Being different and misunderstood by society is something that Oskar, as well as Eli, have in common, and it's their solitude and difference where they find support in one another. On one hand, Oskar doesn’t get to connect with his mother or his classmates, and while he does achieve it with his father, he seems to put other relationships above his son’s. On the other hand, Eli must remain hidden to avoid exposing her true nature and be able to feed, for what socializing with humans that can be her food is not her best option. Under these circumstances, they understand each other and without having to expose the details of their conditions and both help each other to overcome these problems.

While their friendship develops, Oskar stars knowing more about Eli’s nature and so much her as the director Tomas Alfredson (“The Snowman”) take to its full expression the concept of show and don’t tell. Every time Oskar asks something related to her vampire condition, she decides to show him instead of telling him, and the director does the same. Instead of having a narrative full of dialogue, many situations and emotions are shown and little or no dialogue is used to explain it. An example of this is when Oskar’s father shifts his attention from her son to a friend that comes to visit him; a scene visually loaded with cues of who this person might be and Oskar’s emotions in this event, but with very little dialogue. This is also employed while exploring topics about sexuality and adolescent, avoiding being too controversial.

Another element that is predominant is the ambiguity. If Oskar and Eli are in love or if they simply find a complement for their limitations in one another is never explicit. A possible reading to their relationship based on some events in the movie is that Oskar only feels a primal attraction towards Eli, which she achieves through her vampire nature, and she only sees him as a familiar that can be an aid to her limitations, like walking on daylight. This idea is reinforced after noting that in this story the characteristics of classic vampires are respected, as their vulnerability to sunlight, turning into bats, and not being able to enter a place without being invited.

“Let The Right One In” is a beautifully shot vampire movie that makes elegance and subtlety its presentation card. All that is presented in this movie is done in a way that the viewer must actively work in interpreting it, as very little is said directly. This allows getting into deeper topics without wasting much time explaining them, achieving a dense and captivating story in which you can give different interpretations in different re-watches. This has managed that it be considered by many as the best vampire movies in recent times, but it doesn’t surpass other vampire titles such as “Interview With The Vampire”.

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