11.24.2008

i'd say you were in your rights to bite


She is human - well, she was, anyway - and needs to be loved, just like everybody else does.

A confession: an hour into Let The Right One In (Lat den ratte komme in), Swede director Tomas Alfredson's gorgeous, meticulously-crafted adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's screenplay of his book about vampirism and disillusionment, I grew a little restless. And then a little bored.

This is not to say that Let The Right One In - the title's adapted from the Morrissey tune, "Let the Right One Slip In" - is a bad film. It's very good, in fact - I'd go so far as to say it's the most perfectly realized vampire flick I've seen since Kathryn Bigelow gathered up Aliens alumns Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein for 1987's Near Dark, and the cast - particularly Oscar (Kare Hedebrant), whose fumbling discovery of manhood the story orbits around, and the hypnotic Eli (Lia Leandersson), the girl who's "been twelve for a long time" - is simply wonderful. So, yes, good film, very good. But what had me shifting in my seat was the realization that this movie was not for me, or at least, someone in his early thirties.

Ten, fifteen years ago, I would've been mad for this flick (instead of merely entertained), though I'm sure I wouldn't have understood why: the underlying theme of LTROI is that love - in particular, the romance of love, falling in love - is, to coin a phrase, wasted on the old. While it's a bold point to make, it's also completely immature, and it left me feeling a little cold to the events and the characters on-screen - a bit like tweenies Oscar and Eli, the movie's rather closed off to the rest of us, somewhat self-absorbed, and dispassionate, which is weird considering it's a movie about a boy who falls in love for a little (little-ish) girl who sucks blood. The overall result is something just (only just) this side of a horror movie for people who don't generally like horror movies and otherwise, it's tailor-made for lovelorn nerds (like I was ten or fifteen years ago).

4 comments:

Pike Bishop said...

This is going to spoiler riddled so don't read if you don't want to know.

I would have to disagree with your main point about this movie. Puppy love is not the point of this film. The relationship that the main characters have can be seen as a mutual parasitism. She needs a hunter and he needs friend. She uses his need against him by using complete honesty. When she says she cannot be his friend she then becomes that much more alluring to him. He falls for it hook, line and sinker. What she needs is someone who will grow up to protect her and provide for her because she will never grow to full size, therefore being vulnerable in this world especially during the day. By getting this dufus boy all twisted up like she does, she provides a replacement for her current man servant who at some point will die of old age or die by accident. It is alluded to, that this current man servant was, in his past, much the same as the main boy in the film. He is clumsy at killing and emotionally stunted around others. The young boy in the film shows the same sense of clumsiness when he can't use the knife in the bathroom scene. We the audience know he will learn because we are given the visual cues earlier with the man servant and his use of the knife. It is alluded to that over time, the feeling of friendship that the boy has for the girl will turn into love and that the only escape is death. Basically the boy and the man are two ends of the same life cycle. To clarify something, we know that the boy only has the idea of friendship in his mind and not love because when he ask her to go steady, she backs off knowing exactly what that involves. Once she feels out that what he means is exactly what they have been doing anyway, she is comforted and gives in to his wish. The end of the movie is really the girl sealing the deal with the boy by saving his life, thus making him indebted to her. You might have noticed that I used the pronoun "her" above. That was my mistake because she was really a he with his peter cut off.

end of spoilers

I think that you romantic outlook lead you down the wrong path with this one lover boy Dex. If this kind of girl happened upon you, you'd be doomed at hello.

Dex said...

thanks pike -

i think you misunderstand me: it's not puppy love, but love, being in love, that i'm talking about (SPOILERS). alfredson and lindqvist reserve romance and love only for the youngsters eli and oscar - when we first meet eli, she's already out of love with the old man (and as you correctly point out, who was more than likely an "oscar" once, too), an unrequited love (his sad and stiff "forgive me" when he fails to bring home a bucket of blood that first time); oscar's parents can't have it either - his mom is shrewish and lonely, reduced to watching teevee by herself, and his father, who's fallen in love with another man, is literally living a kind of exile in the forest; even those broken adults that live on the fringes of eli and oscar's world - the catman, the drunks, one of whom simply can't handle the "state of grace" eli survives in (killing herself in the hospital bed), the state of grace that she and oscar live in.

i think that the themes you identify are definitely there - "mutual parasitism" is a good way of putting it, and eli's real physiology opens up a whole other perspective, and a grim one - it's almost like alfredson and lindqvist are asking if there can there be love at all.

but for me, that frission doesn't peek out until the very, very, very end of the movie (a great, lovely/sad scene, btw). and that's part of the prob that i had with the movie - it was just sooo subdued, almost to the point of being a little navel gazey. it's almost too meticulous, too delicate. and maybe that's sort of the point. but it needed a little heat, ya know?

and yes, i would be totally smitten by the not-boy vampire person at hello, even at my advanced age ;)

Pike Bishop said...

I would argue that the dad is the only one that gets to love. He is the only sane one in the whole movie. Eli uses love as a trap and oscar doesn't even know what it is. He will only feel it when it to late to escape. Oh, and by the way puppy love is being in love is love. it is an illusion. A bio-chemically induced one, but an illusion none the less. I still can't figure out why you think a Swedish film would treat "love" in the same way, as say a film marketed at the American teen would. It is not a part of their film culture. You might think I'm only talking about Bergman but he is not an isolated case.

Dex said...

yeah, the dad, and his situation, is interesting, as is the little rope-a-dope that happens when we're first introduced to his bf ("wait - how did eli get here?")oscar and his dad, the parallels there are really strong.