The Friday Afternoon Movie: Let The Right One In

My apologies but I’m unable to embed today’s film. Above is the trailer. The playlist with the film is here.

The FAM is ever ephemeral, dear readers. It is the nature of finding films posted on the internet. Sooner or later they shall be found and, no doubt, taken down. That said this movie’s time may be shorter than some, so get it while it’s hot. Today the FAM presents 2008’s Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) the Swedish vampire masterpiece directed by Tomas Alfredson, based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist who also wrote the screenplay.

I’m posting this today mostly because I finally got around to reading the original novel so the details are still fresh in my mind and, thus, this will be more of an examination of some differences between the film and its source material (though by no means a thorough one.) For those who haven’t seen it, Let the Right One In takes place in 1982 and tells the story of 12 year old Oskar who lives with his mother Yvonne in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. He is a shy, meek boy who is tormented at school by bullies. One night he meets a young girl on the playground by his building. Her name is Eli and she has moved into the apartment next to his with an older man, Håkan, who Oskar assumes is her father. Oskar will soon learn, as you no doubt guessed, that Eli is not who she seems.

Spoiler Warning: I usually don’t do these as I assume that most people realize that these posts are bite-sized analyses and expect spoilers. However, I will also being discussing the book in some detail, and the thought of ruining two forms of media for the unsuspecting reader makes me feel that a warning is necessary.

It should come as no surprise that there are significant differences between the film and the 471 page novel. Most of these differences come down to a varying number of sub-plots and characters not present in the film. The most significant change, by a large margin, is the arc of Eli’s protector/servant/father Håkan. As presented here, Håkan serves mainly as a vehicle to drive the initial action. The murders he perpetrates in order to procure Eli with the blood she needs whip the community into a fearful lather and, ultimately, he helps to define the future of Oskar and Eli’s relationship. His warning to Eli to stay way from Oskar is purposefully ambiguous, it could be something spoken out of jealousy or it could be his ultimately futile plea to spare Oskar the same fate as himself.

This is substantially different from the character in the book. He is recruited by Eli not, as it can be inferred in the original and is explicitly implied in the American remake Let Me In, as a young boy but as an old, broken man trapped in the depths of alcoholism, having been dismissed from his teaching job after it is discovered that he is a pedophile. He serves Eli, not only because he saved him, but also because he desperately wants to have sex with him. He also reappears after his dive from the hospital window, having become undead (an entity that, interestingly, the novel differentiates from the typical vampire). Not much more than a zombie acting on base instinct, the undead Håkan single-mindedly seeks Eli out and, upon finding him, knocks him unconscious and attempts to rape him.

There are, as mentioned, additional differences between the two works, the most interesting of which pertain to Eli’s past — specifically his castration at the hands of a sadistic vampire lord some 200 years previous to the events of the novel. It also gives Oskar more time to wrestle with whether or not Eli’s (né Elias) sex is something he can accept.

Which version you think is superior is a matter of taste but I must say that Lindqvist did a superb job of adapting his novel for to the screen. In making his changes he places the two protagonists firmly at the center of the story. Free of unsavory distractions we can watch their relationship develop and it is here that Let the Right One In truly excels, presenting a realistic portrayal of the love between two children — one on the cusp of adolescence and one who, while centuries old, will always be stuck in childhood. Likewise, it brings into greater focus the torment Oskar suffers at school. Lindqvist has said that not only are the locations and many of the names from his childhood, but some of the situations between Oskar and the bullies who harass him as well and it shows. The helplessness, anxiety, and anger that Oskar feels is palpable.

In all, it must be said that the film is definitely the more melancholic of the two. For all it’s blood and violence, it shines as a love story. There is a sadness and wistfulness that is less present in the book. The novel shows us a dark, ugly place. There is no happiness in Blackeberg and, for many, there is no escape. Even Oskar’s departure with Eli seems a bit opportunistic. His life is a prison he must escape even if it means he will have to kill others to get it. He loves Eli, yes, but even stronger is his survival instinct and in the end, that may be the thing the two understand about each other the best.

2 Responses to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: Let The Right One In”

  1. Damien Says:

    It is REALLY nice how often this has been coming up, lately.

    And I mean four times, four vectors, two days.

    Great pick.

  2. Rodney Lewis Says:

    Let the Right One In” is a great alternative to the horror movie schlock that comes out in American cinema.