I went to see Let the Right One In last night. I enjoyed it--any movie named after a Morrissey song is automatically going to get points with me. I wasn't quite as wild about the movie as a lot of people seem to be, but I did enjoy it (there'll be spoilers ahead).
The movie is pretty austere and cold. So cold it's frosty. Plenty of snow. Swedish snow. Blue Swedish snow. Everything's blue in this world, as Trent Reznor would say. Though in this case it's due to a fashionable blue filter applied to the camera lens or the footage. This is something everyone seems to love these days--blue filters and generally subdued colour palettes seem to go hand in hand with almost any film or video that wants to be taken Very Seriously nowadays. There's nothing wrong with that, and I fully admit that it's my own fault I can't get into it. To me, it's dull as dishwater. To others, it's evocative. I don't begrudge them that. By all means, enjoy. I'll just sit here by myself wishing it'd been shot by Martin Scorsese circa Taxi Driver, or Stanley Kubrick circa The Shining. Funny how the greatest directors don't rely on filters to give a film a consistent tone.
But, okay, here I'm kvetching about a movie that has many positive qualities. Let's just assume I'm intimidated and am snarking as a defence mechanism and I'll move on.
Actually, Let the Right One In looks a little Kubrickian, especially when it comes to Oskar, the twelve year old male lead, whose pageboy haircut seems like a slightly more feathery version of Malcolm McDowell's in A Clockwork Orange, or Danny's in The Shining. All the kids in this movie are a little more emotive than Danny, though. Even the cold little Ms. Vampire girl, who tells Oskar she's not a girl, which somehow causes Roger Ebert to assume she's a boy. There's one shot in the film that does something to contradict this idea and, if the same rules applied to movies as manga, we'd all be facing jail time for watching it. I rather assumed Eli (the vampire) was referring either to the fact that she was much older than she looked or that she's inhuman.
Whatever she is, she and Oskar develop a sweet little relationship, though the sweetness of it is dampened somewhat when you consider Hakan, Eli's middle aged lackey from the beginning of the film, is probably a glimpse into Oskar's future. Hakan takes it upon himself to acquire human blood for Eli, though he seems to be astonishingly bad at it. Eli proves enormously better equipped to acquire blood herself, but maybe she just wanted Hakan to feel useful.
Mostly this is a story about that point in life where morality just starts to matter to kids. It actually kind of reminded me of Venia's Travels, as I chose the age of twelve very carefully for the scene where Venia killed the puppy. Up to that point, kids see the nasty consequences for doing something wrong as being punishment from adults or other authority figures. Morality comes partially when a person sees the futility of never-ending reciprocation of violence and the limited satisfaction brought by destruction. If, however, a kid becomes a vampire (or a Duchess permitted and encouraged to commit violence by adults) at an early age, the natural bad consequences for destructive behaviour never come to pass, and there's always an opportunity for new violent thrills, it's easy to see how kids might not grow up in that most important respect.
Venia's Travels has actually gotten a lot of hits from Sweden. What's with you freaky Swedes? I always assume my Swedish readers look like Ingrid Bergmans and Brock Samsons.
The movie Let the Right One In most reminded me of was Nadja, which lacks some of the narrative focus of Let the Right One In, but I think Let the Right One In would've benefited greatly from the presence of a Peter Fonda. Someone naturalistic who can accomplish a lot by seemingly doing very little. I think it would've punched the movie up from good to very good. Aside from the colour palette, the only other problem I had with the movie was an incredibly silly scene with a bunch of cgi cats.