Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Let The Right One In (Moderate Spoilers)

Let The Right One In is an interesting film, from Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, and one that I struggled to understand until I came home and thought about it after seeing it for the first time this evening in the cinema. The plot focuses on the relationship between a twelve year old boy named Oskar and his mysterious young neighbour Eli, whom he forms a close bond with. Oskar lives with his disinterested mother and is bullied at school. When he meets Eli the pair begin spending time together in the courtyard of their apartment building, and Oskar relates to Eli his troubles. Eli convinces Oskar to stand up for himself and to use violence against the bully to teach him a lesson. What Oskar doesn't know at this point is that Eli is a vampire whose 'watcher' murders young children and desaguinates them, bringing their blood home for Eli to drink. Eli says to Oskar early in the film "I am not a girl," but the full meaning of this statement isn't revealed until the final act, at which point Oskar has already retaliated against his tormentors and Eli's watcher has been killed, leaving Eli with no choice but to find another partner and companion.

The film explores themes including coming-of-age, violence, redemption, revenge, sexuality and love. It can be categorized as a horror, although the more overt moments of horror that occur seem so absurd in an otherwise believable and subtle film, provoking nervous laughter rather than fright. The real horror lies in the details of the story and the relationships between the characters, a more unsettling sense of dread, angst and uncertainty that pulses beneath the surface of the snow-covered, bleak winter environment. It begs serious thought and active engagement to illuminate the subtleties of the plot's subtext. For instance, one may wonder if there is a sexual relationship between Eli and the watcher. Was the watcher young when he met Eli initially, like Oskar? Will Oskar end up the same? None of this is answered explicitly within the text, but enough suggestions and clues are provided for the audience to complete the puzzle.

Eli's hunger is eternal. Oskar will die unless he becomes a vampire like Eli, but if he does so then the pair will not be able to survive together, since Eli relies on the benefits of having a human partner who can travel in daylight, establish a residence and perform other tasks that a vampire would be unable to. The film implicitly comments on the nature of human interdependence and roles of passivity and dominance, as well as violence and intelligence as tools of power and manipulation.

Oskar is enthralled and inspired by Eli. Eli's watcher, by contrast, has become a shell of a human being, a murderer, surviving only to appease and sustain Eli, the relationship between them having been worn down to the process of its own dynamic, highlighting the basic needs at the heart of human desire. Is it still love that is holding them together?

We all use each other to fulfill certain needs, including survival. Love brings hope, the possibility of something transcendental, but love fades. We all hunger for something more, but we will never be fully and permanently satisfied.

Morissey - Let The Right One Slip In

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