Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness - Let the Right One In: An Excellent Film

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November 27th, 2008


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04:24 pm - Let the Right One In: An Excellent Film
Last night, teaotter, athenian_abroad, and I went to see the new darkly romantic teen vampire film – no, not the piece of regressive and misogynistic Hollywood trash that has gotten so much press later, but the other film, the Swedish one that is both excellent and seriously creepy.

Let the Right One In is a vampire film that doesn't look like a vampire film – no gothic mansions, filmy clothes, or other romantic trappings. In fact, it looks sufficiently unlike a vampire film to remind me of the only other such film I know of - the 1977 film Martin (and if you've seen that one, then you have likely seen approximately as many vampire films as I have, and would especially appreciate Let the Right One In).

In any case, in addition to being excellent, it is also a harshly realistic depiction of what it's like to be a bright middle school age child who's a target of bullies. In fact, it is sufficiently so that if you have sufficiently bad memories of being that age, this film needs a warning label. Other than that caveat, I recommend it wholeheartedly as one of the best films I've seen in quite a while.
There are a number of subtle touches that I really liked, and some that are less obvious to US viewers. The vampire's name is Eli – I did not know, but there was a suggestion that the name was odd, and other comments (most notably the several times when Eli says "I'm not a girl" – Eli is not only a male name, it's specifically a Jewish male name, and Eli is the only character in the film with dark brown curly hair. Essentially, from a Swedish perspective, Eli is an outsider in about every way possible, which I find interested and very powerful.

Of course, Oskar, the young target of bullies is an outsider in far less obvious ways. What he mostly is though, it trapped. He's safe in his warm home, but outside he's a target of attack and deception from his peers. Of course, one of the darkest parts of the film is how is clearly shows that Eli and her world does not in any way represent freedom, merely a different trap, and one that we see the endpoint of, perhaps 35-40 years later, with Eli's previous "servant", who Oskar is clearly replacing.

In any case, I dismayed to see a US review which described Eli's "servant" as a pedophile, which indicates to me a reviewer who was sufficiently blinded by cultural assumptions to not remotely be able to see what the film was telling us about that character – from my POV, his sin was far more one of envy for lost youth than anything remotely like lust.

The wikipedia article on the film mentions that there's a US remake in progress, directed by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves. I'm absolutely certain that this film will suck like a vacuum cleaner. In that version, I'm certain that Eli will be unambiguously portrayed as a white girl and that her "servant" will most definitely be a pedophile. While US remakes of foreign films are not always bad (for example, the US remake Vanilla Sky was vastly better than the Spanish film Open Your Eyes), but in this case, it's certain to be unwatchably horrible.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:beetiger
Date:November 28th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
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Cool. It actually turns out to be playing locally, so I might just check it out.
(Deleted comment)
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From:heron61
Date:November 28th, 2008 08:49 am (UTC)
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Some verbal abuse & threats, several beatings, and an attempted drowning. As with all the violence in this film, you don't actually see it - you see the thin branch swung, and hear the impact, but you don't see it hit.
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From:lyssabard
Date:November 29th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
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I have to beg to differ here. I rate that has a higher level of abuse and trauma present in the way that Oskar is first seen, stabbing at the pole with a knife, chanting, "Squeal like a pig!". The psychological comes out to hit harder, making the physical violence more harsh when you see it become "real". Kids holding eachother while others attack, the blood and body parts in the water at the end--sound was well used in this film, alternating with the silences. Setup for psychological horror was very powerful and well done--a man being hung by his feet, while the killer gets a vacuum pump, buckets, lays out plastic sheeting--it all becomes very visceral when put together and I do not recommend those parts for certain triggers. I know B would NOT have been able to sit through the movie, alas.

[User Picture]
From:lyssabard
Date:November 29th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
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That said, it was really really excellant and those scenes *were* few--but they are there.
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From:andrewducker
Date:November 28th, 2008 10:39 am (UTC)
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I saw the trailer for this a few weeks ago and it looks excellent. I'm looking forward to it appearing over here.
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From:lyssabard
Date:November 29th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
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From watching a Youtube video with the director and then reading a bit more about the book on Amazon, the guardian figure in the book IS an avid pedophile, but, as the director noted, if he had kept that change in then the movie would've been all about that rather than the complex story it is. Bronnie and I went to see it; it had too many triggers for B.

Now, the book apparently goes even further into the tale as a study of victimization, and how the choices characters make in the face of that affect them. Young Oskar actually has aspirations of being a serial killer, for instance--so perhaps in the end, due to his treatment, he would end up a more suitable guardian for Eli, provided he didn't lose heart and she not lose affection for him in his old age. (One could hope.) I am, you understand, going to pounce on this book immediately.

I find the love story VERY interesting, especially in light of the recent Twilight movie and the vampire genre moving into the YA realms. Especially of interest to me is the obvious sexuality present in the vampire mythos and how it is interpreted and manifested towards characters of different ages/nationalities. (Especially given American attitudes of sex in different religious/social classes--children are to be protected, or educated as if it is expected--and are marketed to as young adults--and the meta involved in the fact that the camera in cinema fetishizes the view of children/any vampire victim in general. Did you note the camera shots were mostly waist high or mouth shots in LtROI?)

....Damn, I could have an ICFA paper here, maybe. My first since grad school, if I have the time to tweak it up. Heh.

And I agree, the US remake will need to be burned--but it would be integral to a critical theory paper between the two POVs. :)


[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 29th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
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the guardian figure in the book IS an avid pedophile

Fascinating, in the movie, he seemed to kill because he envied the boys their youth, because he was old and no longer a suitable companion for Eli.

it had too many triggers for B.

He was the primary reason I put up that warning - I'm certain it would have been a bad idea for him to see it.

And I agree, the US remake will need to be burned--but it would be integral to a critical theory paper between the two POVs. :)

Indeed.

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