Tuesday, February 24, 2009
LÅT DEN RÄTTE KOMMA IN
(LET THE RIGHT ONE IN)
“Let the right one in,
Let the old games fade,
Put the tricks and schemes, for good, away…”
“Let The Right One Slip In”
1982, Sweden: Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is 12 years old, bookish, bullied, and quite possibly just a wee bit maladjusted. And when he gets some new next door neighbours—who are definitely more than what they seem—Oskar’s world opens up in ways he could never have anticipated.
That’s Tomas Alfredson’s Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In) in a nutshell, and it’s quite simply a fascinating and darkly alluring cinematic experience unlike any other.
Now, if you’ve already heard of Låt den rätte komma in, chances are, you already know what supernatural creature is at the centre of its narrative. And if this is the first time you’ve heard of the film, then I really should let you try and see it as unaware as you can possibly be, to further enhance the piece’s striking originality.
(Suffice it to say that said creature is—as is the cyclical way of these things—currently enjoying a renaissance, most visibly on the big and small screens.)
Despite it’s having that supernatural element though (which, by the way, has all the romanticism others have imbued it with totally stripped away), Låt den rätte komma in is also about how the bonds of friendship and love can form from a mutual longing and loneliness (as well as need; there is that, too). It’s about the painful and cruel world of adolescence. It’s about learning to be free of the oppressor, without becoming one yourself. It’s about making the distinction between the need to inflict injury, and the want.
Låt den rätte komma in is decidedly one of the most unique horror films I’ve seen in quite a long while, with a pair of exceptional central performances by Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, both newcomers found in open castings. (There are no professional child actors in Sweden.)
And while the film may have some perhaps familiar elements, Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist—who adapted his own debut novel for the screen—never quite play with them the way you might expect.
One of Alfredson’s most interesting choices is to juxtapose Oskar’s roiling adolescent angst with the frigid setting and Hoyte Van Hoytema’s coolly controlled cinematography, creating a feeling at once both unsentimental, yet strangely moving, and giving us the intimation of something very dark and unsavoury lurking at the heart of Oskar, waiting to flower into something particularly venomous.
Which all then leads to an ending that can be read as either completely liberating, or merely the doorway to a terrible prison.
If you’re a horror fan and you haven’t seen this one yet, you really do owe it to yourself to seek it out, particularly since it’s already on its way down the Hollywood English-language remake road.*
And hey, there’s that title. I mean, Morrissey. Come on. You have to check it out now, right?
“Let the right one slip in…
“And when at last it does,
I’d say you were within your rights to bite
The right one and say, ‘What kept you so long?
‘What kept you so long?’”
“Let The Right One Slip In”
* Actually, the Hollywood version—to be brought to us by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves—will actually be another adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel, as opposed to being an English-language redux of Alfredson’s film.
Parting shot: Amongst a deluge of honours, Låt den rätte komma in—which quickly grew to be a darling on the festival circuit and within numerous critics’ circles—won Best Narrative Feature at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. (I tracked the film in some Afterthoughts past, which can be found in the Archive, alongside a review of Cloverfield)
(OS’s courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of beyondhollywood.com.)