Monday, 3 October 2016

Let the right one in (5 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #3, which I watched today on Germany's June 17th holiday. I'm sure my German readers understand what I'm talking about. One of my university lecturers once said, "On the 17th of June we used to sit and think about the revolution. Now we have cream cakes and coffee". That was a profound statement that I've never been able to forget. That doesn't apply to me. Today I had coffee and tiramisu.

I'll start this review with a question to my male readers. If you fell in love with a girl and then found out she's really a boy, would you still love her? Romantically, I mean. If not, how would you react? Would you run away from her in horror or downgrade the relationship to a safe  just friends level?

This is the dilemma that 12-year-old Oskar has to deal with. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in a drab housing block in a suburb of Stockholm. He has no friends. He's bullied at school, and he dreams of one day taking revenge. In a creepy scene he pretends that a tree is one of his schoolmates and stabs it repeatedly with a knife. He looks like he's going to grow up to be one of the school classroom shooters that we sometimes hear about. Don't blame the boy, blame the bullies.

A 12-year-old girl moves in next door. She never claims to be a girl, Oskar just assumes it, even though her name is Eli, a man's name in Sweden. Eli even hints that she might not be, but she doesn't openly deny it. When Oskar finally sees the proof of Eli's gender he doesn't back away from the relationship.

"Let the right one in" is more than a mixed up pre-teen romance. Eli is a vampire, and when Oskar asks her if she really is 12 she replies, "Yes, but I've been 12 for a long time". The two young lovers are drawn together by their loneliness, but in another way they're opposites. Oskar is a meek boy who dreams of becoming a killer, whereas Eli is a killer who regrets having to kill.

Tomas Alfredson had a unique way of directing the film. The actors, including Kare Hedebrant (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli), weren't allowed to read the script. Before a scene he read the lines aloud to the actors and they had to speak them while they were still fresh. However, in the finished version Lina's voice was considered too high pitched to portray a character with ambiguous gender, so her voice was overdubbed by another 12-year-old actress, Elif Ceylan.

This is a beautiful romantic film, with just enough violence for it to qualify as a horror film.

As you can see from this photo, when Kare and Lina were re-united for an awards ceremony in 2010, by the time she was 14 there was no doubt about Lina's gender. She changed a lot in two years.

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