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March 17, 2009

10

DVD of the Week – Let the Right One In (2008)

by HELEN GEIB

Oskar is 12 years old. He lives with his single mother in an apartment building in a depressed suburb of Stockholm. It is the depths of winter, his alcoholic father puts the bottle before his child, he has no friends, and he is the target of vicious, petty bullying at school.

The Swedish film Let the Right One In is the story of what becomes of Oskar after Eli moves into the apartment next door. Eli, who looks to be about Oskar’s age, is reclusive, appearing only at night, and seems not to feel the cold, going outside dressed only in light clothing and without a coat or even, sometimes, shoes. She is lovely with a dark, haggard beauty, intelligent, carries an air of mystery about her, and is flatteringly receptive to Oskar’s overtures of friendship. He is instantly and irrevocably smitten.

Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson from a screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist based on his own novel, builds gradually and inexorably to the horrifying end-point of Oskar and Eli’s relationship. Among the film’s thematic layers, I was most deeply affected by the role Oskar assumes in the cyclical pattern of Eli’s life.

When she enters the story, her Renfield is a miserable, beaten-down, middle-aged man who, with the expertise that comes from many years of practiced repetition, kills and drains the blood of innocents to feed his Dracula. When Eli leaves town, she is accompanied by Oskar. One of the filmmakers’ terrible triumphs is to convince that this outcome was predetermined by the place, the people, and the circumstances of their lives. This is the first vampire movie to move me to tears of pity.

Unfortunately the DVD has minimal special features, so those who missed the film in its limited U.S. theatrical release will probably want to rent first before buying. I strongly urge everyone interested in horror films or contemporary European cinema to do so.

New releases this week: Elegy, Punisher: War Zone, Twilight


10 Comments Post a comment
  1. jason
    Mar 17 2009

    The movie should be watched if not for only the reverse “JAWS” scene.

  2. jason
    Mar 24 2009

    WARNING ON THE DVD RELEASE!!!

    according to http://iconsoffright.com/news/2009/03/let_the_wrong_subtitles_in_to.html

    They dumbed down the translations from the theatrical version leaving out many of nuances of the film. So avoid the DVD and try to see it in the theaters.

  3. Rishi
    Mar 24 2009

    I had heard this as well, Jason. I don’t think that it’s possible to watch the film in theaters any more, though.

    Supposedly the dubbed version retains the original subtitles.

  4. jason
    Mar 25 2009

    GOOD NEWS, the next printing will have the theatrical subtitles.

    on the back of the dvd the new one will say

    SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical)

    No word on the street date, and no exchanges for the current release.

  5. RDW1455
    Apr 7 2009

    I would love to see an American version made of this film. Something along the line of “American Werewolf in London”
    Same script just all American actors who speak perfect English and the filming doesn’t look like it was filmed with a home video camera.

  6. James
    Oct 13 2009

    Man, I really wish that I had recalled the comment posts on this DVD before I purchased it at Target last week. Now I’m stuck with what I consider a bastardized version of the film due to Target’s blanket corporate policy of not exchanging / refunding opened DVDs and Magnolia Pictures’s refusal to exchange the film for a correct version. I consider this distributor’s actions to be very poor treatment of what I’d presume to be their core customer base: passionate film buffs. They shan’t be receiving any more of my monies.

  7. Helen
    Oct 13 2009

    You’ve hit on what I find most perplexing about the re-subtitling. What’s the business justification for antagonizing the people most likely to buy your product? Anyone who would refuse to watch this movie because the dialogue is too challenging is just going to wait for the Hollywood remake anyway.

  8. Aaron
    Dec 16 2009

    I’m not sure I agree with your pessimistic view on the ending of the film, Helen.

    What made you take that stance? I’m curious.

  9. Helen
    Dec 17 2009

    The ending is indescribably bleak. Oskar is only a boy yet he’s chained himself for life to a monster who slaughters people without compunction as livestock. He will never see his parents again or have anything in his life except taking care of Eli.

    The most heartrending part of it is that Oskar’s happiness (and even Eli’s, although I didn’t feel for her as I did for him) will inevitably be short-lived. Their emotional connection is genuine but tenuous because it is based on being the same emotional age. Eli is static; her life is an endless loop. Her vampire’s tragedy is that she _cannot_ change and mature. But nothing can stop Oskar from growing up. Eli’s middle-aged “caretaker” is Oskar’s future.

  10. Aaron
    Dec 18 2009

    Okay, I see what you’re saying.

    It is bleak, but somehow, it’s still touching.

    Although I don’t consider Eli an consience-free vampire.

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