Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

by Smart

Lina Leandersson, who plays Eli, a child vampire, has very big and very beautiful eyes. She also has a face that pulls off cold indifference with ease, even as dark red lines of blood trickle down her cheeks and over her lips. There is a degree of nuance and apprehension to be felt in the performances of the two main child actors that really sets and maintains the tone of the film. Our protagonist, Oskar, is but 12 years old and already filled by a sadistic obsession with revenge. His new, and only, friend, Eli, has to kill people and drink their blood to survive. Already we can see a thematic mesh emerging, and this becomes more prevalent and problematic as these issues raise themselves to the surface. This happens slowly, through a methodical pace that allows the relationship between the children to develop over a believable amount of time. Days go by without so much as a word between Eli and Oskar, allowing us to appreciate how their affection grows. However, the avoidance of drama and slow build up does cause the film to lose all feeling at times, if only for a scene or two. Let the Right One In places the vampire myth inside a realistic world, but focuses more on emotion than it does on bloodshed. The locations, costumes, and lighting, all reflect this, while the often overbearing, ominous score builds an atmosphere of dread as well as sympathy.

Creative use of shallow focus produces blurred images out of light and colour, which meld with reflections to a contemplative and often surreal effect. The slow camera movement follow characters politely, allowing the story to be told through actions rather than their words. The grace of the vampire is deconstructed as soon as it is introduced, and the rules of their existence are brought to our attention only when necessary, without expository dialogue or contrivance. The lustful appeal of the vampire is replaced with an odd, taboo sexuality, which is never fully explored. Several touching moments emerge from the naive intimacy of young love, which is juxtaposed against brutal, disturbing, dark acts of violence. An unobtrusive flow between romance and the macabre creates an atmosphere that has room for both tension and meditation. Emphasis is placed on forging connections, rather than on death. There is nothing necessarily frightening to be found here, and it is clear that it was never the intention to scare, as even the vampire feeding scenes are restrained and brief. The visuals are not overly stylised, and the cinematography provides just enough to help maintain the mood.  Although the parts that make up the film may themselves not be original, it is the way they come together and are handled that gives this film its uniqueness and authenticity.