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