Sunday, October 05, 2008

DEAD CHANNELS 2008—Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma in)

Genres are borrowed skins. Filmmakers adopt them and adapt them to fit the stories they want to tell. In the case of Tomas Alfredson's Swedish coming-of-age vampire tale Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma in) the tale is so dense with nuance, so textured with masterful indirection and tender delights, so imaginative in how it reconfigures established tropes of the vampire mythos that it stretches the skin taut, rendering it nearly translucent to reveal its wondrous heartbeat within, like the vulnerable pulse at one's temples. With Let the Right One In, Eli's coming and, no, you won't want to hide your heart.

As Dead Channels programmer Bruce Fletcher announced proudly to his opening night audience, "Let the Right One In is perhaps the best genre film since Pan's Labyrinth." By programming Alfredson's Bay Area premiere, Fletcher once again proves how much he loves his San Franciscan audiences and how dedicated he is to bringing us the finest of the world's fantastic films.

Winner of the Best Narrative Feature award at the TriBeCa Film Festival and the Jury Prize for Best Film at the Fantasia Film Festival, and recently awarded at Austin's Fantastic Fest, Let the Right One In came highly recommended by Twitch teammates Todd Brown and Ard Vijn. Todd, in fact, wrote the program capsule for Austin's Fantastic Fest.

At Twitch, Todd writes: "The film is beautifully shot and anchored by very strong performances from its young leads and stands quite easily as the most compelling new entry into vampire mythos in … well, as long as I can remember. An exceptional piece of work." Ard concurs: "[O]ut of all the gory movies I've ever seen, this one is without a doubt the sweetest. And out of all the sweet movies I've ever seen this one is without a doubt the goriest!" Before resigning from the Twitch team, Blake Ethridge scored an enviable interview with Alfredson. Todd couldn't leave to the Sitges Film Festival without posting Magnolia's new U.S. theatrical trailer for the film.

If their genre savvy doesn't convince you, then check out Boyd van Hoeij's (somewhat spoilerish) review at europeanfilms.net who admits that—though "quiet, touching and poetic are not normally terms associated with vampire films, … there are no better words to describe Let the Right One In." Laura Kern in the current September/October issue of Film Comment likewise sings the films praises: "Vampire lore, which has held its ground within pop culture since the creatures of the night's fangs were first bared even pre–Bram Stoker, and has been enjoying a distinct upswing of late, rarely comes across as inspired and alive as it does in Tomas Alfredson's exquisitely crafted Let the Right One In, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, adapted from his own bestselling novel." More importantly, she warns that Let the Right One In might end up being the next "casualty of Hollywood's rampant impulse to remake (i.e., in most cases, vandalize) every halfway-decent horror import in sight" as Hammer Films has tagged Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) to spearhead the remake, even though "[t]he mystery is why it's not obvious to all that there's simply no room for improvement with this one."

I'd have to agree that I don't envy Reeves the commercial task. At Drifting, filmmaker David Lowery wholeheartedly defends the film's "incomplete androgyny" as a "quite nearly perfect bit of genre filmmaking", even "the punchline of the climactic shot that could technically be deemed in bad taste"; a "final set piece" that Film Threat asserts "uses visuals in a fresh, inventive, and startling combination that will be talked about for years to come." I can't say any more. It's an anticipated comeuppance that deserves to be enjoyed on its own merits, and enjoy it you will.

In fact I'm completely reluctant to cull out the film's most intriguing details because they should be experienced firsthand. But the imprint that lingers with me is that of the hand on the windowpane; the plea for access. Eli at Oskar's window asking to be let in from a snowy night; Oskar at the window looking out, the warmth of his hand leaving moisture on the cold pane. This longstanding trope that vampires must be invited over the threshold recontextualizes the belief that it is not necessarily evil you are inviting into your heart. All I will say about the film's final scene is that the beautiful look of protectiveness in Eli's eyes and the sheepish smile on Oskar's face invites questions about their own amor fati.

10/14/08 UPDATE: As anticipated, Let the Right One In won Audience Favorite for Best Feature at this year's Dead Channels.

Cross-published on Twitch.

3 comments:

dantheman said...

LOVED THIS FILM!!!!! if any of the other releases in the six shooter series are this good I'm gonna freak. :P

Sean said...

"In fact I'm completely reluctant to cull out the film's most intriguing details because they should be experienced firsthand. But the imprint that lingers with me is that of the hand on the windowpane; the plea for access. Eli at Oskar's window asking to be let in from a snowy night; Oskar at the window looking out, the warmth of his hand leaving moisture on the cold pane. This longstanding trope that vampires must be invited over the threshold recontextualizes the belief that it is not necessarily evil you are inviting into your heart. All I will say about the film's final scene is that the beautiful look of protectiveness in Eli's eyes and the sheepish smile on Oskar's face invites questions about their own amor fati."

Brilliant, insightful bit of prose there. I admire your thoughts on this great film!

Maya said...

Thank you, Sean. I appreciate the encouraging feedback.