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Låt den rätte komma in

On Friday evening, I actually began to see the end of my current work queue. So C and I took a couple of hours for video. Last year I had acquired a copy of the Swedish film Låt den rätte komma in (I wanted to see the original; I mistrust American remakes of European films), and had been wanting to watch it ever since, so we picked that one.

The premise of the film is vampirism, and actually fairly conventional vampirism: People bitten by vampires, if they don't die, become infected and turn; vampires find sunlight painful and if exposed more than very briefly burst into flame. There's also a clever twist on another old formula: A vampire can enter a place without invitation (this apparently must be spoken invitation), but shortly afterward they begin to hemorrhage massively all over their bodies. But this vampire, Eli, is unusual in being twelve years old ("about" and "I've been twelve for a long time").

But that's not what the film is about, and that's what we both found amazing about it. What Låt den rätte komma in is about is love.

The film starts off with a socially isolated twelve-year-old boy, Oscar, who's a target for school bullies. He observes a girl his own age and an older man (apparently her father) moving into the apartment next to his. Then at night, while he's outside muttering things the bullies have said to him and stabbing a tree with a knife, clearly wishing it were one of the bullies, Eli approaches him. They're cautious with each other at first, but over the course of the film we see them coming increasingly to care for each other, even while Oscar slowly figures out Eli's true nature, and even more slowly admits it to himself. The relationship was both convincing and moving to watch.

But that's not the only portrayal of love. There's also the story of Eli's seeming father's willingness to take appalling risks for her, and to pay any price to keep her safe. And there's a subplot about two men, very close friends, one of whom encounters a desperately hungry Eli, and dies—after which the other shows prolonged grief for him.

So though this is about a classic horror motif, this isn't a horror film, or not straightforwardly so. There are things in it that are creepy and disturbing, but in watching it, I felt much less terror or horror than sympathy. Though I suppose it could be said that in persuading the viewer to be sympathetic to someone who is, ultimately, a serial killer, it's horror at a meta-level.

I was also impressed by how intelligently the plot was developed, and how many things that were planted early on came back in later scenes to be important. I found the whole film to be unusually rewarding.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 12th, 2017 11:44 pm (UTC)
I had heard of this movie back when it came out and that it was really unusual - thanks for the detailed account!

I saw a very atypical vampire movie a couple years ago, Only Lovers Left Alive. It was beguiling.
Feb. 13th, 2017 01:50 am (UTC)
Is that the one by Jarmusch? I'm not familiar with him, but I believe C has talked about him.

Have you seen The Hunger, the one with David Bowie? I think that may have been the most impressive vampire film I'd seen before this one.
Feb. 13th, 2017 05:21 am (UTC)
I saw this one a few years ago on TV and loved it (the American remake is not as good, mostly, better special effects though). The book is pretty good, too...I think I've read all the author's work that's been translated to English now.
Feb. 13th, 2017 05:48 am (UTC)
That's kind of what I expected. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn't as good as Män som hatar kvinnor, either. . . .
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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