Swedish cinema has always been somewhat amiss in my vocabulary of cinema. Of course it would be hard to sidestep its most prominent figure Ingmar Bergman - and why would anyone want to do that? – and the fabulous texts he produced in his time, but other than that… I wouldn’t have a clue.
Last night I added a new slice of Skandinavian cinema to the list, Let The Right One In, a new release from Tomas Alfredson – a prolific director in his homeland, mainly for television, imdb informs me. Based on a book of the same title (Låt Den Rätte Komma In, in its native language), and adapted for the screen by its author John Adjvide Lindqvist, the story surrounds 12-year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), a new kid on the block, so to speak.
For Oskar, a loner, who strongly desires revenge against those that bully him at school, Eli’s arrival at the apartments, signifies a chance at friendship for the first time. Trouble is Eli not only smells a bit funny, as Oskar deftly puts it, but she’s a vampire too; that explains why she only ventures out of the block at night, and can withstand the below-zero temperatures then. Oskar’s left in the dark for the time being though, just appreciative of another ‘weird kid’ on the scene and her pledge to help him out if Conny (Patrick Rydmark) and his gang cause him any pain.
Besides, Eli is rather shrewd in her approach to getting blood – there’s no flying around in a cape to be seen here – as she gets her father to do the ‘dirty’ work for her. Luckily the old man is rather adept with an oxygen pump, knife and bucket, in which he collects his daughter’s evening meal. Trouble is his first catch isn’t quite satisfactory enough for a growing-girl with an eager appetite, and her own attempts to feed herself are ill-judged; her killing is witnessed by the local cat lover.
Fortunately, this time dad is on hand to dispose of the body before it raises too much suspicion in the community, however, the next evening’s expedition to the local school isn’t quite as successful. Not so accomplished as he thinks himself to be, his next prey doesn’t go quietly, and so he is forced to sacrifice himself in order for Eli to survive. But when her previous attempts at sustaining herself were such a failure, what are the chances?
The vista Let The Right One In presents is as beautiful as the story it tells, and whilst, at times, there are some rather ludicrous, and unintentional laugh-out-loud moments, they are soon forgotten as the tender relationship of the main protagonists continues to flower. Indeed, though there are constant barriers between the pair physically (Alfredson highlights this through a repeated motif of walls, which they speak through via Morse code), emotionally they are akin. This perhaps owes to Oskar’s naïve lack of judgment for Eli: when he asks her to go ‘steady’ with him, her response that she “is not a girl” does not sway him from his desire.
But this is precisely what makes their story so endearing. A superb tale, which aptly blends together the burgeoning love between its two kindred spirits, whilst introducing elements of the fantastical. Let The Right One In has certainly carved itself a niche in the market, straddling the realms of art-house cinema for anyone not accustomed to the usual gore-fest that vampire cinema might suggest, whilst providing enough to keep the blood-thirsty hungry for more.