A weblog dedicated to noir fiction and film, music, poetry and politics.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Let the Right On In
I finally got around to seeing Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In, which I had been hearing so much about. It didn't disappoint. In fact, after leaving the Camden Town cinema, I sort of had the feeling that everyone I saw might well be a potential vampire. So I thought I'd better buy a copy of the latest novel- Handling the Undead- by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the screenwriter and author of the novel on which Alfredson's film is based (more on that novel at a later date). For me, Let the Right One In is arguably the best vampire films of recent years. It's also very perceptive about the transition from latency to puberty, and ingenious in its use of the vampire story as a metaphor for female puberty. I also found it very touching in its exploration of the relationships formed during childhood. Though comparing the burden of childhood with the undead might be stretching the point, I was nevertheless ready, even from the film's opening shots of all that snow falling, to suspend disbelief. It's beautifully shot, from those opening shots to the bleak landscape and horrors embedded in the alienating contours of 1950s social housing. And there were also some truly frightening scenes, including one that includes cats (I'll say no more). Though sometimes I thought its use of the genre's cliches, like the girl climbing the hospital wall, might have been elimianted without doing any harm to the narrative or mood of the film likewise, the ending, which I thought unnecessary. I had a look at the novel afterwards and noticed that Lindqvuist points out that the town has no church, and so can offer no protection against vampires, and that nearby are the remains of old mill, which I take it is a reference Dreyer’s classic film Vampyr. And the two child actors here are excellent, particularly the girl who has that amazing ability to look young at one moment and then a moment later, old and world weary. Though it might be yet one more film that follows the strand of horror which plays on fears of a superstitiuous past reaching into the present to destroy life through contamination, I think this ranks right up there with Abel Ferrara's The Addiction, made some twenty years ago, as the best vampire film of recent years, and is certainly better and more important than Twilight, First Blood, etc., and more tragic than Herzog’s Nosferatu. I also liked the way the tragic elements were tempered by near-comedy, like the bumbling older man who initially lives with the girl. I guess the Scandanavians- Strindberg, Dreyer, Munch- are particularly adept at this sort of thing. But I hate to think what the American remake is going to be like.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.