Thursday, November 13, 2008
My friend Ryan G just sent me a message on Facebook telling me that I HAD to go out to see Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In. If you are beginning to despair that this pre-oscar season is looking very very dull, then take his advice.
It would be easy to describe this Swedish film as merely the sum of its parts: Vampires, twelve year olds falling in love, overcoming bullies. I mean for me, I hear that and it is "SAY NO MORE" and I am off to the theater. But this film goes far beyond its synopsis.
Yes, this film is about vampires, but is it a vampire movie? I am a big fan of Vampire movies, and I find that most vampire films fall into two categories: Vampire as erotic object (see Underworld) in which the vampire is a desired higher being, or Vampire as vermin (see 30 Days of Night.... or rather don't see it) in which the vampire is more zombie-like, a monster that needs to be eradicated. There are films that combine both, in the original Blade, the protagonist Blade is on a mission to kill vampires who feed on innocent humans, however Stephen Dorff who plays the villain is about as close as you can get to the sexy vampire. I was always mildly disappointed that he didn't win.
Let the Right One In takes both these categories into consideration. Oscar, in a awkward 12 year old way, is drawn sexually to Eli, the twelve year old vampire who moves into his apartment complex. And yet director Tomas Alfredson does not ignore the monstrous side of Eli: the times in which we see her kill are violent and bloody, her body contorting unnaturally as she feeds, snarling, on her victim's blood.
So yes, the film is a vampire movie.
But the film is also a coming of age / revenge of the nerds type film. Oscar is picked on and learns in the film to stand up for himself. The final scene in which the bullies get what is coming to them is equally bloody and hilarious. And it is also a quiet romance: boy meets girl who changes his life. The film moves slowly and we are able to absorb the romance against a backdrop of snow at a drawn out pace. The film is cute: Twelve year olds!! But it is also extremely disturbing: Who is the old man who lives with Eli? Was he once a boy similar to Oscar? And thus while we root for them to be together, we also wonder if Oscar would be better off without her. This film is both heartwarming and bone-chilling. It is cute and gorey. It is a thriller. It is a romance. It is about coming of age and never coming of age. It is a wonderful friendship and it is also a dangerous potentially addictive deadly relationship.
Any of these themes would produce a good double feature, so you may be surprised that I picked, you guessed it (drumroll please), Interview with a Vampire. This is probably the most obvious choice that could be made based on simply reading both films synopsi. But I am not pairing Interview With a Vampire with LTROI because it is a vampire movie. But because both films use the the idea of the Vampire to create films about broader thenes: Youth, Mortality, Love, Obsession.
In particular, both films star girls who are girls for ever. The idea of never ending youth in a world that grows up despite you and the sexual frustration that underlies both these characters are major themes in both films. Similarly, it would be interesting to add Peter Pan to this mix. In Peter Pan, to never grow old is seen as something to be desired. But unlike in Neverland, both these girls are the only ones in thweir worlds who remain eternal children.
So for all those mid life crisisers out there: it could be worse.