Fangs for the memories – Acclaimed Swedish vampire tale proves something of a mixed bag

Bhavya Dore 9 June 2009

Let The Right One In – 3/5

Let the Right One In wasn’t one of those movies I warmed to instantly. To be honest, it took me a while to decide exactly how I felt about this genre-defying Swedish, vampireish, coming-of-age-ish tale. Twenty- four hours later…it has grown on me.

The movie starts on an uncertain note, leaving the audience in darkness for a good five minutes, wondering whether to respectfully appreciate the black screen as “art”, or gaze back at the projection room assuming technical difficulties. That said, it seems a fitting beginning for a movie that strikes ambiguous chords throughout its compact running time. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a lonely twelve year old boy from somewhere in a Swedish suburb, at some point in the early eighties. A victim of a broken home and playground bullies, he is a boy in search of company, which comes to him in the form of a twelve year old girl who is, in reality, an ageless, sexless vampire.

The movie was born out of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s best-selling novel of the same name (he also wrote the screenplay) where the thrust is on the friendship that develops between the two child protagonists. Yes, the film fits the description of an “art house masterpiece”, though its fine cinematography, sound editing and mysterious brooding emotions ultimately also make it a tiring movie to watch.

There is a fine line between pretension and artistry, and Let The Right One In only just about manages the balance. That is does is in large part down to strong performances from its child actors, who generate a lively chemistry. One of the movie’s other principal strengths lies in its successful combination of themacabre and the mundane in a manner that repeatedly recalls vampire lore, reflected in the title’s commonly held wisdom that vampires must be invited into the lives of those they love.

Whilst newspapers around the world have worked themselves into a frenzy over the film, hailing it an indisputable classic, I like to think that a “classic” is a timeless piece of art you would return to again. Let The Right One In is not a movie I will watch a second time, but it isn’t one that I regretted watching.

Bhavya Dore