Thursday, April 02, 2009

Teenage Sucks: Låt Den Rätte Komma In.

One of the great things about my job - which includes the odd bit of film reviewing every now and then when I'm given the opportunity - is that, just occasionally, I get a freebie to something which doesn't look all that promising at a glance. But which, ultimately, turns out to be an invitation to view an unexpected gem.

I went to the press screening of Let the Right One In (Låt Den Rätte Komma In) at the Tyneside today (first time I'd been up to the fourth floor there). This is a 2008 Swedish vampire movie directed by Tomas Alfredson. It's based on a novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the screenplay) and tells the quasi-romantic story of a bullied 12-year-old boy, Oskar, who develops a close friendship with a teenage vampire girl (although there's actually some question about whether that particular term is applicable) called Eli, who lives next door to him in an apartment block in a suburb of Stockholm. The book, apparently, which I must seek out, focuses more on the darker side of humanity, dealing with some very emotive issues such as bullying, paedophilia, sex-crime and a thirst for revenge as well as the more obvious supernatural themes that you'd expect from a story about vampires. The film follows most of these through to a logical conclusion although I understand that it's far more of a 'rites of passage' piece than the source text.

The two kids in the central roles - Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli - are, genuinely, oustanding. I mean, "my God, they are gonna be Big Stars"-outstanding. Many of the reviewers who've seen the film already have also commented - very favourably - on Alfredson's stark, beautiful cinematography and the movie's quiet, rather restrained approach to the sometimes bloody and violent subject matter it deals with. I really wasn't sure what to make of the film at first. It starts off - for, maybe, the opening twenty minutes - like a kind of vampire version of Red Riding if you can imagine such a strange beast. It's quite cold (physically and metaphorically) and rather difficult to penetrate. It was starting to become an intellecutal exercise of me trying to predicte where the plot was going to go next for a while. But then I started to warm to it (again, physically as well as metaphorically) as the movie began to get much more interesting, more intense, more outré. It has some wry, caustic and thoroughly sarky humour in it too, which was quite unexpected, and one or two really shocking moments (particularly one pyrotechnic sequence). And it features a genuinely tender (dare one say sweet) relationship between the young leads and, I guess, as close as you'll get to a happy ending in this sort of genre as you could possibly wish for. All this and a stream of gorgeous, poetic dialogue ('I'm twelve ... But, I've been twelve for a long time!') After an hour, I had fallen head-over-heels in love with it. By the finish I was adoring this lovely little work of quite outstanding beauty.

It's been given a limited theatrical release in the UK so, I urge you, do try to go along to see it if you get the opportunity. I understand it's already out on DVD and Blu-Ray in the US and has generated some controversy as a rather simplistic, and sometimes quite nonsensical, set of English subtitles were used. There's a re-release coming soon, apparently, with the 'proper' translation so if you're going to buy the DVD it might be an idea to hang on for a bit. There's a very interesting summation of the controversy (and an interview with the director) here:
http://iconsoffright.com/news/2009/03/let_the_wrong_subtitles_in_to.html

Inevitably, perhaps, as with most good non-English language horror movies a Hollywood take is on the near horizon. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is writing and directing an English language remake for Overture Films and Hammer. This, retitled Let Me In, is due to start principal photography next month. Alfredson has been reported as saying he's uphappy the film is being remade, expressing concern that the end result could be 'too mainstream.' I do see his point - albeit, they'd need to perform some major surgery to turn this particular story into The Lost Boys (to which it shares some, mostly aesthetic resemblence), let alone An Interview With a Vampire or Twilight. It's more in the Near Dark or Leptirica school of bloodsucking despite its Byronesque central theme of doomed passion. Let's just hope the Americans don't screw this one up as badly as they did Ju-on: The Grudge.

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