I need a thematic analysis of the movie, here are the commentaries:
The myth of the vampire is very old and may have roots that reach all the way back to prehistoric times. The Summerians and Babylonians believed in the Edimmu, a vengeful wind spirit that sucked the life out of the living. The Edimmu likely formed the basis for the Hebrew myth of the succubus Lilith, supposedly Adam's first wife, who preyed upon children. The most famous vampire myths grew up in Eastern Europe where the myth of the vampir was common in most Slavic languages.
Vampire stories were common in Germany in the 18th century and likely inspired The Vampyre by John Polidori in 1819, which started the vogue in vampire stories in England that eventually led to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. John Polidori was Lord Byron’s personal physician and in 1816 Byron; Percy Shelley; Shelley’s fiancé, Mary Wollenstonecraft Godwin; Mary’s step-sister, Claire; and Polidori spent the summer at the Via Diodati on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. 1816 was the “Year Without a Summer,” likely caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia the year before. In the northeren hemisphere, it was dark and cold throughout the summer. Snow fell in Europe in July.
One night in June, after the residents at the Via Diodati had read aloud from Tales of the Dead, an anthology of horror stories, Byron suggested that each of the vacationers write a ghost or horror story. The 18-year-old Mary Shelley wrote a short story that later became Frankenstein and Polidori wrote The Vampyre, which became the first vampire tale written in English.
Gothic horror fiction became something of a literary rage throughout the 19th century. In England, Thomas Prescott Prest’s Varney the Vampire series of “penny dreadfuls” (1845-47) and Sheridan Le Fanu’s lesbian vampire tale, Carmilla (1871), became major sellers. However, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) would establish the vampire tale as the most popular ??" and lasting ??" gothic fiction of the century.
Barm Stoker was the manager of the famous actor Sir Henry Irving and wrote Dracula, in part, as a potential stage vehicle to boost Irving’s career. Nothing came of the stage version, but the novel became one of the most successful literary works of the late 19th century and is now regarded as one of the two masterpieces of horror fiction, along with Mary Shelley’s Frakenstein. Stoker’s novel was meticulously researched and used the true story of Wallachian warlord Vlad Tepes as the basis for his central character. Vlad the Impaler, although a folk hero in his native Romania, is regarded as one of the most brutal and ruthless rulers in the history of Eastern Europe. His title, “the Impaler,” was given to him after he defeated an invading Turkish military force of 4,000 and impaled over 1,000 men as a warning to the main body of the Turkish army. Between 1460 and 1462, Tepes, with a force that never numbered more than 5,000, held a Turkish army of greater than 100,000 at bay. It is estimated that Vlad Tepes killed between 40,000 and 100,000 during his three reigns in Wallachia. It was also widely held that he took sadistic pleasure in torturing and executing his enemies.
Stoker’s novel led to dozens of novels and stage plays about vampires that, in turn, led to literally hundreds of vampire films. The first vampire film, Nosferatu, was made in Germany by F.W. Murnau in 1922. Nosferatu followed Stoker’s novel closely, which led to a successful suit being brought against Murnau by Stoker’s widow. The most famous vampire film, Tod Browning’s film adaptation of John Balderston and Hamilton Deane’s stage version of Dracula was made in 1931 and became one of the biggest hits for Universal Studios. The film starred Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula and made Lugosi a major star in his first screen role. As a result of the success of Dracula, Universal produced dozens of horror classics including Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Mummy with Boris Karloff; The Invisible Man with Claude Rains; and The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr. In 1958, Hammer Films in Great Britain produced a version of Dracula with Christopher Lee that led to seven sequels and there were dozens of other successful vampire films including Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974), John Badham’s Dracula with Frank Langella (1979), Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, the Vampire with Klaus Kinski (1979), Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983), Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1993), Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993), Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire (1994), the Blade and Underworld series, and most recently the Twilight films adapted from Stephanie Meyer’s novels.
Television has also produced dozens of vampire movies and series including The Night Stalker series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Salem’s Lot, and HBO’s True Blood.
Chicago Sun Times
November 12, 2008
I look at young people who affect the Goth look. I assume they want to keep a distance and make a statement. The leather can be taken off, the tattoos not so easily. It is relatively painless to pierce many body areas, not all. But what would it feel like to be pierced by a vampire’s fangs? That would be more than a Look, wouldn’t it? And you wouldn’t want to advertise yourself as a vampire.
Let the Right One In is a “vampire movie,” but not even remotely what we mean by that term. It is deadly grim. It takes vampires as seriously as the versions of Nosferatu by Murnau and Herzog do, and that is very seriously indeed. It is also a painful portrayal of an urgent relationship between two 12-year-olds on the brink of adolescence. It is not intended for 12-year-olds.
It opens with the reflection of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) looking soberly out a window. He may remind you of the boy in Bergman’s The Silence, looking out of the train window. They will both have much to be sober about. There will be many reflections in the film, not all from mirrors, but this is not one of those vampire stories that drags out the crosses and the garlic.
Oskar is lonely. His parents have separated, neither one wants him, he is alone a lot. He hangs around outside in the snowy Swedish night. One night, he meets a kid named Eli (Lina Leandersson) who is about his age. Eli is lonely, too, and they become friends. Oskar is at that age when he accepts astonishing facts calmly, because life has given up trying to surprise him. Eli walks through the snow without shoes. Eli has a faint scent almost of a&hellip corpse. “Are you a vampire?” he asks Eli. Yes. Oh. They decide to have a sleepover in his bed. Sex is not yet constantly on Oskar’s mind, but he asks, “Will you be my girlfriend?” She touches him lightly. “Oskar, I’m not a girl.” Oh.
Oskar is cruelly bullied at school by a sadistic bully, who travels with a posse of two smaller thugs and almost drowns him in a swimming pool. At a time like this, it is useful to have a vampire as your best pal. A girl vampire or a boy vampire, it doesn’t really matter.
I have not even started to describe this film, directed by Tomas Alfredson and written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel. I will not go into the relationship Eli has with an unsavory middle-age man named Hakan (Per Ragnar). Maybe he is his familiar, maybe he just likes blood. Nor will I talk about the iron rod and the knife, or Oskar’s horrible parents, I’ve already made it sound grim enough, and the fact is, there are some funny moments. Vampire-funny, you know. “Are you really my age?” Oskar asks Eli. “Yes. But I've been this age for a very long time.”
Remove the vampire elements, and this is the story of two lonely and desperate kids capable of performing dark deeds without apparent emotion. Kids washed up on the shores of despair. The young actors are powerful in draining roles. We care for them more than they care for themselves. Alfredson’s palette is so drained of warm colors that even fresh blood is black. We learn that a vampire must be invited into a room before it can enter. Now the title makes sense.
Footnote: Jeremy Knox of Film Threat likes the film as much as I do, but comes from a different place. He writes: “I’d even go so far as to say this would make a great date film. Women will melt watching this. Not only that, but it’d also make a fine film to show to the 10- to 16-year-old crowd. Little kids, especially girls, will love this. Yeah, there’s some blood and one really quick shot of nudity, but just because they’re young doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Kids will totally get this.”
They’ll get it, all right. In the neck.
The Washington Post
November 7, 2008
Movies about kids have usually concerned either the littlest among us or those working out their differences with adulthood. But the new Swedish drama Let the Right One In -- which shares with Stand by Me an appreciation of the 12-year-old state of mind -- lurks in a cold, dark, brooding territory, inhabited by people both haunting and terrified: tweens.
The primary one here is Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), the pink-skinned, white-blond child of a single mother, a loner and a target, whose days include having his pants stuffed into a gym urinal or having a cane lashed across his milky cheek -- all by his personal, and very devoted, trio of schoolyard bullies.
The other is Eli (Lina Leandersson), the dark-eyed waif who moves into Oskar’s apartment block, goes barefoot in the snow and gives Oskar something to live for -- even though she is technically dead. Or, rather, undead.
Yep: Eli is a vampire, and Let the Right One In (probably the most uninviting title of a film this year) is, in the basest of terms, a horror flick. But it’s also a spectacularly moving and elegant movie, and to dismiss it into genre-hood -- to mentally stuff it into the horror pigeonhole -- is to overlook what is at this point the best film of the year. Two of the sadder things about Let the Right One In are that it’s being distributed as part of a genre series and that it’s going to be remade for the U.S. market.
No offense, but it seems unlikely that the American adaptation won’t be something like an all-harmonica version of Beethoven's Ninth.
From the cool blue cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema to the intelligence and subtlety of the script by John Ajvide Lindqvist (adapted from his novel), Let the Right One In executes all the right moves technically, and another director might be able to emulate that. Capturing its considerable soul is another thing.
Start with Oskar: Almost an angelic cliche, he is smarter, prettier and lonelier than anyone in his school, so he naturally attracts abuse from the bullies; his mother has no clue about his plight. We see him, knife in hand, fantasizing about revenge on his tormenters, repeating the same baiting words they use on him and stabbing his blade into a tree. Behind him, he discovers, Eli is watching, a dark-eyed, black-haired, sallow-looking girl, who immediately informs Oskar that they can’t be friends; rigorous honesty, it seems, is the hallmark of the preadolescent ghoul (she must be invited into Oskar’s room, for instance, hence the title). Oskar is desperate enough to settle for close acquaintance. And Eli, as it develops, needs an ally.
The horror aspects of Let the Right One In toy with the audience’s existing vampire knowledge -- specifically, the survivor guilt inherent in the immortal bloodsuckers of modern ghoul lit. Eli doesn’t want to put the bite on anyone. For that, she has Hakan (Per Ragnar), who is old enough to be her grandfather and who seems to be at the end of his usefulness: When he sets out to collect blood for Eli -- his MO is to anesthetize a victim, string him upside down, slash his throat and drain him into a plastic gasoline jug -- he picks a too-conspicuous spot and is interrupted by dog walkers. Eli has to kill a local, though it grieves her to do it, and the murder becomes front-page news. At that point, it seems only a matter of time before she’s driven from yet another town.
Where Eli is a walking (and flying) mystery, Oskar is an open book: He’s tortured at school; home isn’t a lot better. When he’s sent off to visit his estranged father on some remote Swedish farm, his joy is palpable. A shot of the boy on a snowmobile, his ecstatic face pushed into an icy wind, is bliss. But his duet with his father becomes full of flattened grace notes
. When their backgammon game is interrupted by a neighbor with a vodka bottle, it’s clear Oskar knows the truth about Dad, and we know the truth about Dad and Mom. And Oskar’s options become all too clear. Life with Eli starts to look better and better.
Unkindness is evil, and overstatement a sin, in Let the Right One In. Vampirism, which has provided a metaphor for sex, AIDS and outsider status over the last several decades, is in this film more about survival and symbiosis: Even at her most blood-desperate, Eli resists making Oskar one of her meals (the sound you hear, which at first suggests the purring of cats, is the rumbling of Eli’s insatiable appetite). So she dines instead on the unhealthy herd of local barflies who wander into her web at closing time: One woman, whom Eli bites but doesn’t kill, provides the film’s most conventionally creepy moments, becoming a scratching post for fear-maddened cats and eventually bursting into flames.
But most of Let the Right One In provides more of a generalized and constant sense of unease. What is Eli after? “I’m not a girl,” she tells Oskar. “Okay,” he answers, “but do you want to go steady or not?” Oskar possesses the androgynous heart of the preadolescent. And he’s emboldened by love: In one of director Tomas Alfredson’s most startling moments, the camera pulls back as Oskar delivers retribution on his nemesis, avoiding the easy melodrama inherent in the moment, and making it indelible.
Eli is a slippery matter. She is 12, “more or less,” she tells Oskar, but we know -- Alfredson shows us, in several fleeting, disturbing snapshots, just how old she might be. Her late, unlamented assistant, Hakan, may have been her husband; he may have been her father; he may have been only the latest in a long line of companions devoted to Eli’s survival. He may, in fact, have signed on to the Eli campaign when he was just the age of Oskar, whose need for love has him looking for a friend -- not on the Internet, but in the realms of the undead.
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