In 1987’s vampire romp Near Dark the immortal child, Homer asks ‘Y’have any idea what it’s like to be a big man on the inside and have a small body on the outside?’ A fun idea which is explored to a far greater extent in the brutal and brilliant, Let the Right One In. Our young, lovelorn protagonists Oskar and Eli teeter on the cusp of adolescence, but for Eli that final push into puberty will never come. She is trapped forever in a twelve year old’s body whilst aging rapidly on the inside.
Throughout the movie there are signs of her inner state affecting her exterior. We see a passing image of Eli’s vagina, rotted, atrophied and useless. Eli’s sexuality is denied before it has even begun to grow, replaced with the affliction of vampirism. It is an exchange of fluids, but it holds none of the pleasures of sex, instead it inflicts a heavier burden upon her psyche. To live she must drink blood and to do this she must kill without bias and without remorse.
The first time we see Eli indulge her thirst she is sitting supposedly paralyzed under a concrete bridge when a local man hears Eli’s cries for help, kindly picks her up and offers to take her to a phone. His compassion is repaid with a vicious, sharp bite to the neck. Once Eli has stopped feeding, she twists his head around until the spine snaps. Her animalistic urges overshadow her conscience during the attack, afterwards however she begins to weep, aware of the horrendous act she has just committed.
Eli’s carnivorous attacks paint the snow covered estate in a red mist, tainting the stark colour palette and reminding us how incredibly harsh an environment this is to grow up in. The themes of aging and of lost adolescence play throughout as people are forced to age quicker amongst the cramped apartments of shade without colour. The adults are more affected, their skin burnt by the harsh, winter landscape, their souls and bodies dirtied by time and circumstance. The children’s perfect, pale skin disappears into the blinding primer of the snow -beautiful in its purity- but we know that they cannot stay this way for long.
Apart from the stunning performances by Kare Hedebrant (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli) the film also features an abundance of interesting and easily overlooked support characters. Oskar’s father especially stands out as a man of depth and tragedy. He features on screen for what must be less than five minutes in total, but the impact of his presence is difficult to forget. He plays with his son and enjoys his company, but when their evening is interrupted by a friend of the father’s he opts to drink instead. Oskar looks on wishfully, wanting his father to continue a game of noughts and crosses. His father merely states ‘we have guests’ and continues to drink vodka in silence. Here, in this place, the adults have nothing better to do, no other way to appease their empty souls.
Let the Right One In is an undoubtedly good looking film. Camera distance is applied with microscopic precision, cutting between extreme close ups and still, lingering long shots. It is images of the extreme that the film hinges upon and the lack of mid shots perfectly marries this choice. However, the film is not perfect. The score is at times too invasive and the CGI cats (yes that’s right, CGI cats) were not only extraordinarily distracting but unintentionally humorous. Let the Right One In is a magnificent film that suffers from odd inconsistencies. Still, it deserves all of the accolades that it has received and well deserves your time and money…it beats the f**k out of Twilight to boot.
Additional film information: Låt den rätte komma in (2008)