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Let The Right One In


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FWIW, this film has been gaining a lot of acclaim on the cult/genre film circuit. It was recently awarded first place in the audience awards at this year's Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and I know that the folks at Twitch have been raving about it. Here's Todd's review:

The film is beautifully shot and anchored by very strong performances from its young leads and stands quite easily as the most compelling new entry into vampire mythos in

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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  • 2 weeks later...

I just finished seeing Let the Right One In, and thought it was a really extraordinary movie. Since this is the first post, and I don't know if anyone else has seen it yet, I'll keep my comments broad:

• Great cinematography. There's a really interesting use of mirrors throughout the movie, and the framing in some of the scenes is exquisite. When I first started watching it, the Dardennes came to mind in the long, steady shots and the close cropping from time to time, though a lot of reviews are comparing the look to Bergman.

• Really interesting and unique mash-up of genres. It's a horror movie that cares more about the love interest of a 12-year old outcast than high-tension-jumps and gore. That said, it is very creepy and sick. But also very sweet. And the more sweet you allow yourself to see it to be, the more creepy it gets. Very odd and unique.

• Some very funny moments, though sometimes very darkly funny.

Anyway, I hope more of you decide to check this out, because I'm really interested in finding out what everyone else thinks. There was one shot that just totally caught me by surprise and has really made me hesitant to recommend this movie to much of anyone - even those who usually are less "content-focused".

I'm talking about the very brief shot of Eli's crotch when she's changing after walking into Oskar's house uninvited and bleeding all over. I can suggest a couple explanations for this shot, but it was still really surprising and disturbing. Maybe after Eli tells him in bed, "I'm not a girl," Oskar had to confirm that she was, at least, female. Maybe it's to add an edge to the movie and make sure the audience knows that Oskar's feelings toward her include an aspect of sexual desire. Maybe it's supposed to stimulate questions on what the sexuality of a 100-year-old vampire (though we don't actually know how old she is) in a 12-year-old's body would entail.

Edited by solishu

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I have to wonder if the scriptwriters are familiar with Octavia Butler's last novel, Fledgling... I just checked out the Chicago Tribune review of the film and boy, it sound like a riff on Butler, right down to the age of

the female protagonist

.

OTOH, Butler's plotline is substantially different, but still...

It's actually based on a Swedish novel that predates Fledgling. Maybe Butler riffed John Ajvide Lindqvist ;)

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Watched this last night and liked it quite a bit, although I had an interruption and had to finish it far too late for full comprehension.

Solishu -- the shot you mention surprised me and made me wonder if that shot alone might push the film into "NC-17," or "unrated" territory. Not because we've never seen a shot like that before, but because of the age of the character, which might lead to some discussion of whether the film is

engaging in "child pornography." It's not, of course, but people have gotten fired up over less

.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ooops! Looking through the other film threads for a dedicated thread on another title, I stumbled on this, which merits an AHEM.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ooops! Looking through the other film threads for a dedicated thread on another title, I stumbled on this, which merits an AHEM.

The two threads have been merged.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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  • 4 weeks later...

I just came back from a screening, and I think I have the same reaction to Let The Right One In that I had to Brick. I can't say that I liked it on any deep emotional level, but I definitely appreciated it from an aesthetic and stylistic perspective. I'll try to post some more thoughts, but I did find this interesting -- and spoiler-ish -- bit related to Solishu's earlier comments on the film's Wikipedia page:

There is additional backstory present in the novel for many of the characters that is missing in the film. In the book it is revealed that Eli is a boy and has been castrated many years ago. In the film, this is only hinted at, without any elaboration, in a brief scene in which Eli is changing into a dress, but she does mention to Oscar twice that she "is not a girl", and asks him if he would still like her if she wasn't a girl. There was a scene that touched upon his history through flashbacks, but it was eventually cut.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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  • 3 weeks later...
I just came back from a screening, and I think I have the same reaction to Let The Right One In that I had to Brick. I can't say that I liked it on any deep emotional level, but I definitely appreciated it from an aesthetic and stylistic perspective. I'll try to post some more thoughts, but I did find this interesting -- and spoiler-ish -- bit related to Solishu's earlier comments on the film's Wikipedia page:

Brick is an interesting comparison. I could watch it again and again in the same way I always stop at particular paintings or sculptures in our local museum that were pretty much made to be visually appealling. But other than that, it is kind of a stretch to drag much thematic freight out of its storyline. Perhaps I would benefit from reading the book? It establishes an impeccable mood though, in parts even similar to the long building and window shots of Dekalog. What a seductive film.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Holy hissing cats, Batman!!

What a movie!

I'm inclined to say it's immediately my favorite vampire movie. It's troubling in all the right ways, and the shocks, when they come, are knockouts.

I've had a hard time shaking a lingering feeling of sickness and dread since I left the theater late last night. But I think that's a *good* thing, because any movie with a vampire character who actually wins the audience's sympathy had *better* leave us feeling like something is terribly, terribly wrong here.

Still... it's rough to watch this with a typical audience. It's Silence of the Lambs all over again. Here's a brilliant movie about the nature of evil... and stupid audiences end up cheering for the devil because he's (she's?) fascinating to watch, while conscientious viewers just get sick to their stomachs as the violence plays out.

If I have any complaint, it's this: I felt disappointed that the film, which started with so much openness and a wonderful sense of exploration, eventually settled into the familiar story of

a vulnerable young boy coping with bullies. The farther the movie went, the more its storytelling narrowed into a tale of a good kid and a monster versus bad kids.

The first half of the movie deserved a more thoughtful and challenging second half. And the horrific conclusion felt trite and predictable compared to the rest of it.

But I think there is a lot to chew on (forgive me) here.

It could be a tale about the seductive nature of crime, or terrorism. People become monsters by provocation -- they justify horrible things in order to survive, and they make bloody, dangerous alliances in order to cope with deadly threats.

If I was going to compare it to anything, I'd compare it to This is England. Oskar's a young boy from a broken family with no friends and schoolteachers who seem blind to the needs of their students. He's a boy with KICK ME printed on his back. What's he to do? Why,

befriend someone dangerous and powerful,

of course. And slowly slip down that slippery slope into violence and crime.

Was it a coincidence that there are so many shots of people walking into the shadows under a bridge, the same place where the important alliances were made in This is England? It's an old fairy tale convention... the trolls that lurk under bridges.

Did anybody else think that the tenement complex where the main characters live felt a lot like the towering tenement building in Kieslowski's Decalogue? Actually, there were a lot of Kieslowski-esque shots in the film... which gave scenes like

CATS GONE CRAZY

that much more shock value when they came.

Unforgettable. I'm going to have to give serious thought about where this goes on my '08 list.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Excellent write-up, Jeff.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Thanks.

Hey, check out the comments to my post. (WARNING: SPOILERS!!) I've had an interesting exchange with my friend Adam Walter, who is very, very upset about that one shocking shot referenced above.

SPOILERS AHEAD:

Have you noticed that almost NOBODY actually saw what's there, or rather... NOT there, in that shocking brief glimpse of the vampire's nether regions? Almost all of the critics are referring to Eli as "she." Watching the movie, I saw that moment and immediately determined that Eli was a castrated boy. I didn't see any other option. And the constant assurance "I'm not a girl" didn't make sense to me any other way. My commentary referred to Eli as "she (he?)" and "he (she?)" alternately, but the editor made them all say "she," which I think is misleading. I'll have to see if I can get him to change it.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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FWIW, I mentioned that little twist earlier in the thread while referencing the film's Wikipedia entry.

When I first saw that shot, I wasn't exactly sure what I saw, as it happens really quickly. Castration wasn't the first thing that came to mind, but rather, that maybe Eli was a girl but had been a vampire for so long that that had affected her physiology. And her lines about not being a girl didn't immediately signal (to me, anyways) that she was actually a "he", but rather, that again, she'd been a vampire for so long that she no longer thought of herself as female or any other sort of "human" distinction.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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When I first saw that shot, I wasn't exactly sure what I saw, as it happens really quickly. Castration wasn't the first thing that came to mind, but rather, that maybe Eli was a girl but had been a vampire for so long that that had affected her physiology. And her lines about not being a girl didn't immediately signal (to me, anyways) that she was actually a "he", but rather, that again, she'd been a vampire for so long that she no longer thought of herself as female or any other sort of "human" distinction.

And I think all this is clearer on the big screen than it is on DVD. There is a commentary slated for the Swedish release, but I haven't seen one for the planned US release. I would be interested to hear about how the filmmakers wrestled with this issue.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 1 month later...

Apparently the American DVD utterly screws up the subtitles. Jeffrey Wells passes on a rumour to the effect that the Canadian DVD might not be as bad. I'll be keeping an eye out for this.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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According to this from The Digital Bits, a corrected version of the DVD is coming with the theatrical subtitles:

In other news today, you might recall that we recently reviewed Magnet's Let the Right One In on Blu-ray Disc. Well, it's just come to our attention that the DVD and Blu-ray versions have English subtitles that differ substantially from those of the theatrical art house presentation, in that much of the subtle nuance has been lost and many original lines of dialogue are untranslated entirely. Unfortunately, having only seen the film once in theatres, I wasn't familiar enough with the translation to spot the differences. But Icons of Fright has posted some examples of just how different the subtitles are. We contacted Magnet directly on this issue this afternoon, and they were quick to respond as follows:

"
We've been made aware that there are several fans that don't like the version of the subtitles on the DVD/BR. We had an alternate translation that we went with. Obviously a lot of fans thought we should have stuck with the original theatrical version. We are listening to the fans feedback, and going forward we will be manufacturing the discs with the subtitles from the theatrical version
."

We asked Magnet some follow-up questions, specifically how people will be able to identify the new discs, when they'll be available in stores and if there will be an exchange program for those who have the existing version. Here's what they said:

"
There are no exchanges. We are going to make an alternate version available however. For those that wish to purchase a version with the theatrical subtitles, it will be called out in the tech specs box at the back/bottom of the package where it will list SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH
."

The no exchange thing is going to upset many that have already purchased the disc, and understandably so. We're at least encouraged to see that the title is being corrected. We'll let you know when the discs are available, and rest assured we're letting Magnet know that an exchange program might be a wise idea...

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FWIW, I haven't watched it yet, but I got the Blu-Ray the other day (it appears to be the American edition; there might not be a Canadian edition in high-def, just on DVD) and I went to the first scene that Icons of Fright had singled out, and I discovered that the English dubbed track has the original theatrical dialogue (e.g. the reference to the jungle gym) even though the English subtitles do not.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I can corroborate that, Peter. Let the Right One In was at the top of my Netflix queue before I heard about the subtitle fiasco. So when it arrived I watched it with subtitles AND the English vocal track. And upon checking some of the samples that have been posted around the internet, I noticed that for most of the movie the English voice track more or less matches the theatrical subtitles.

Great flick, even with dubbing.

Edited by Gavin Breeden
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  • 1 month later...

Stu and I just saw this.

I can't say I'm as much of a fan as everyone else, if only because, perhaps due to the realistic asthetic, I kept being distracted by the comedy potential in introducing elements of the vampire myth at various places.

One thing we wondered was why Eli's fist companion (I'm presuming an earlier boyfriend given the similarity between a number of the early shots with those towards the end) had the acid with him. The best I could come up with was that this murder was always going to be his last before he offered himself to her/him, but I'd be interested to know.

Also, I found myself wondering about interpretations like Jeffrey's above. Horror movies are so well established now that I'm not sure rooting for Eli and Oskar against the bullies is anthing other than inhabiting the genre's own set of rules (to mix my metaphors). On no level are the bullies real people. Perhaps we shouldn't treat them as such.

Matt

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I saw this last month I believe. It had some great word of mouth going for it, but I can't say I was really a fan. It wasn't scary or disturbing, didn't impress me with its cinematography* or performances, didn't really make me care about the characters much, and it was obvious where it was going to end up since about the third scene.

It was actually quite charming in parts, with the odd young romance. But really the creepiest part of the movie was how it sexualized such a young girl.

* (Netflix instant watch could be to blame here.)

Edited by theoddone33
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theoddone33 wrote:

: But really the creepiest part of the movie was how it sexualized such a young girl.

Well, assuming she WAS a girl. She says she ISN'T, when we first meet her. But does she mean "I'm a vampire, not a human"? Or does she genuinely mean "I'm a male/hermaphrodite/whatever, not a female"?

To quote Wikipedia:

The novel presents Eli as an androgynous boy, who had been castrated centuries before by a sadistic vampire nobleman. The film handles the issue of Eli's gender more ambiguously: a brief scene in which

Eli changes into a dress offers a glimpse of a suggestive scar but no explicit elaboration

. Eli's character is played by a female actress, but also tries to tells Oskar "I'm not a girl" when he asks that Eli be his girlfriend. According to an interview with the director, as the film was originally conceived, flashbacks explained this aspect in more detail, but these scenes were eventually cut. In the end, Ajvide Lindqvist was satisfied with the adaptation. "It doesn't really matter that [Alfredson] didn't want to do it the way I wanted it in every respect. He could obviously never do that. The film is his creative process", he said.
For whatever that's worth.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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theoddone33, check out the earlier posts in the thread. We discussed the

"Is she a girl?"

question just a few posts earlier. Watching the film, I interpreted "that shot" to mean

we were looking at a castrated male.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Well, assuming she WAS a girl. She says she ISN'T, when we first meet her. But does she mean "I'm a vampire, not a human"? Or does she genuinely mean "I'm a male/hermaphrodite/whatever, not a female"?

And the point of that ambiguity pops up again at the of the film in which our question still turns on both what kind of relationship these two will have in a gendered sense and in a vampire/human sense. I like the way all these crossed wires rub against the grain of the very exacting, sterile cinematography.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Oh, I just remembered another possible meaning to "I'm not a girl": in addition to "I'm a vampire, not a human" and "I'm a male/hermaphrodite/whatever, not a female", another possible meaning would be "I'm an adult, not a child". Yes, in OUTWARD form, she is a child, but that is because vampires never age physically; in her mind, she would be a lot older than that.

So many possible meanings wrapped up in that little word "girl" -- gender, age, even species. (Assuming we can think of humans and vampires as different species.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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