Eye For Film >> Movies >> Let The Right One In (2008) Film Review
Let The Right One In
Reviewed by: Nick Da Costa
Vampires, far more than humans, realise the true cost of love, and because they are immortal, they smash up against the shores of this tragic landscape time and time again. In doing so, they also face the very thing that sustains them - the thump, thump of a heart and hunger.
The recent Twilight touched upon this idea of a chaste love that must result if there is any chance of happiness. Unfortunately, this was less to do with any emotional stirrings, and more an extension of the writer’s batty Mormon beliefs.
But Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In offers a fresh transfusion that obliterates the anaemia of what has gone before. Opening on a shot of falling snow, bristling with strange magic, we switch to the stark, depressing reality of a Swedish tower block and the story of frail Oskar and feline Eli.
The film revels in this kind of opposition. Not a straighforward riff on the Vampire myth, it instead shows how the myth impinges on the real world. While the film depicts familiar vampiric tropes, these are so well worked into the fabric of the story to almost be a part of reality itself.
In fact, break it down and vampirism is simply innocence corrupted - specifically love; the eroticising or perversion of it into something dark and violent. And this is the essence of Eli and Oskar’s journey.
The film is held together by an extraordinary performance from Lina Leandersson as Eli. Not to take anything from Kåre Hedebrandt as Oskar. He articulates the effect she has on him beautifully, moving from bullied timidity to a certain bold and almost violent maturity. It’s Oskar’s likeability that draws us in to the story, but his is more a passive role. It is his interaction with Eli and his gentle expressions of affection (gifting his Rubik’s cube or offering candy) that allow him to take his first faltering steps on the road to adolescence.
In contrast, Eli is the aggressor. But it’s subtle; Lina’s face giving the mere suggestion of it. On the surface, she suggests porcelain purity with a cuteness that Oskar finds so charming. Go beneath, however, and her eyes describe an eternity of sorrow, pain and exhaustion.
While Alfredson refuses to shy away from her brutal and sometimes horrific acts, and in some ways revels in them, when Eli turns those eyes on you, it is not so easy to condemn.
She’s being consumed by a terrible two-fold dilemma. The corruption of an innocent and how best to express the bond she shares with Oskar - maternally or amorously? But more importantly, she faces the greatest fear you have in old age - being alone. In fact, the movie repeatedly emphasises the negatives of growing old. The inadequacy of Oskar’s parents, his teachers, the police and most importantly the decrepitude of Hakan and his strange relationship with Eli.
Is Hakan a manservant, a ward, a lover, a father figure or both a poignant and horrifying look into the future for Oskar? These are a few of a myriad questions the film ignites, leaving scope for interpretation.
There is trickery at work here. That fascinating tug at the heart and mind which cannot be resolved by one explanation any more than by another. It should come as little surprise when you consider the title is both a play on the vampire myth of invitation and also a warning to choose first love carefully or be ruined forever.
In fact, possibly the most indelible image is a bloody kiss shared just before the climax. Both a sign of love, and an ultimate distortion of it. A single resonant moment in a film filled with them.Reviewed on: 31 May 2010
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