Film / These Kids Aren't Alright

 
 

Featuring exceptional performances from its young protagonists, Let the Right One In is a vampire fi lm which manages to transcend its genre, writes Paul Fennessy.

THERE IS A decidedly artsy feel to Tomas Alfredson’s second feature film, based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The eerie atmosphere expertly conveyed in the film’s opening half could easily have come straight out of an Edgar Allen Poe short story and the film’s potent utilisation of pathetic fallacy contains echoes of films which possess a similarly stunning visual texture such as Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs Miller.

However, Let the Right One In is first and foremost a tender, but twisted love story. Twelve-year-old Oskar is a social misfit, who is treated with endless contempt and brutally bullied by his classmates. His situation seems hopeless until he is confronted by a mysterious girl called Eli. Although they gradually develop a close relationship with one another, Eli cannot help but exude a sinister veneer.

The subsequent hour-and-a-half of film conjures up a considerable degree of unbearably tense scenes. The fear which these moments arouse in the viewer can be largely attributed to the movie’s exploitation of the power of suggestiveness.

Without resorting to the exorbitant gore inherent in the recent onslaught of ‘torture porn’ cinema (as exemplified by the Saw series), the film creates a story that is in equal parts poetic, gripping and most of all, utterly terrifying. Therefore, its ambition towards artistry does not come at the expense of sheer visceral entertainment value. Of course, the idea of incorporating vampires into an art-house film is not an entirely novel concept. Werner Herzog’s 1979 take on Nosferatu and Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr are other examples of this conceit.

Nonetheless, there is still undoubtedly something special about this exquisite picture – from the alluring cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema to the commendable performances of its two precocious leads (Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson), Let the Right One In is practically faultless in its execution. Furthermore, the score and sound effects are suitably chilling and the compelling plot contains a number of unexpected twists.

And while the vampire motif will initially engage the viewer’s interest, the film will linger long in the memory due to its strong emotional pull. When Oskar tenderly asks Eli: “Will you be my girlfriend,” it is impossible not to be moved. Yet do not expect the scenes to be overloaded with sentimentality. On the contrary, it is bleak and unfl inching in its portrayal of the harshness of life often encountered by adolescents.

Hence, it is this refusal to sanitise its vision that separates it from more predictable efforts such as Twilight and consequently renders it the best genre film since The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, the one disappointing fact associated with Let the Right One In is that a Hollywood remake has already been commissioned for 2010. See it now, before this obligatory bastardisation takes place.

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