Let The Right One In (2008) Dir. Tomas Alfredson
Forget your Edwards, Stefans and Damons (you know who you are)! Looking for a disturbing and disturbingly brilliant vampire movie — this is the right address.
In an almost surrealist place covered thick with snow lives two children. He, Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), is an introvert. She, Eli (Lina Leandersson), is a vampire. They meet one night when she moves into the same building he lives in. He is pale, with pale blue eyes, and blond hair like sun rays in winter. By contrast, she is dark haired and with piercing eyes, always barefoot. The more they contrast each other, the more perfect they look together — two pieces of a strange puzzle.
Their friendship starts because they have one thing in common: immense loneliness. They don’t spend time talking a lot, they meet briefly, and they communicate with a Morse code. And yet, their friendship defines them and changes them. They need each other. It is perhaps the most important relationship in their lives. Before they meet, she is a predator, living off human blood, and he a victim bullied by kids from his school. He let her in to his vulnerable heart and his life full of humiliation, and she trusts him with her secret. As much as they are both lonely and vulnerable, Eli is more vulnerable. She is immortal, but without a companion her long life is empty and shallow. By helping Oskar face his oppressors, she gains most faithful companion and friend.
From the first scene to the powerful ending, this movie is superior to other recent vampire productions. It becomes a fairy tale with scarce dialogues and a lack of explanations about Eli’s vampirism. We understand what Eli can and cannot do. Her powers and limitations need no explanations. Other movies ask why, how, when, what. This one shows enough for us to figure out. It’s subtle but powerful. Eli does not say: The sun kills me. She simply covers all her windows with cardboard. It sounds obvious, but let’s think of other vampire movies. There’s too much explaining, as if an average viewer lacked any intelligence at all to read the images instead of words.
Moreover, what this movie avoids is philosophizing or moralizing. It doesn’t approach the dilemma whether vampires are good or bad, should be killed or not. Quite naturally, the movie convinces us that Eli has the right to live. She feeds on human, yes, but at the same time, Oskar’s oppressors, still school kids as they are, are more bloodthirsty and simply evil than she ever will be. Whether or not they should be punished so severely for bullying Oskar is an unresolved matter. I believe it’s unresolved because Eli doesn’t kill them out of revenge. She kills them because she saves Oskar, her only friend she needs.
As far as the ending is concerned, I predicted Oskar and Eli would stay together — he taking care of her (becoming her old guardian), and she protecting him. However, before the final scene comes, there is a brilliant sequence at the school’s swimming pool. It is scary and amazingly impressive. We are not shown how Eli saves Oskar from the kids that intend to harm him — we just see their bodies being dragged around the pool and eventually torn to pieces. Oskar’s pale face and yellow hair under the blue water contrast with bloody limbs scatter around the pool. It doesn’t get better than that.
Now, we all know there is an American remake in progress (can anyone explain to me why, oh, why?!). Sadly, it is not going to be half as good as the original. Why? There are too many ways in which this movie may be wronged. My worries are about the fact that the American creators will be tempted to write many dialogues explaining things which should be shown instead. Plus, too much violence added in the remake may spoil the final effect. This movie has a few brief violent scenes, which makes them even more shocking. Thus, it is intense. I was at the edge of my seat, so to say, when Eli’s older guardian poured acid on his face, or when she visited him in the hospital, ending his suffering (a heartbreaking scene, by the way). Let’s just hope that some of this intensity and emotion is in the remake.
This movie has stayed with me since I watched it. And it sure will for a long time. The lunar landscape of streets, parks, and forests under a thick layer of snow and ice, the biting coldness that is both in the air and in the hearts of people, and the blood on the snow — it will all stay with me. Not many productions use snow and winter as means to present something which could be easily said, but Eli’s bare feet on the white snow make all the difference. Oskar and Eli — two names you cannot forget.
Long days, pleasant nights,