Låt Den Rätte Komma In (or Let The Right One In) is about a young boy named Oskar, living in a wintery suburb of Stockholm sometime during the 1980s. Oskar is a timid, weak boy who constantly suffers abuse and bullying in school, and seems to have no real friends. But one day a young girl moves in, whom he soon befriends, and it's soon apparent that she, Eli, is not just your average girl.
The title of the film comes from an old concept in vampire lore - that a vampire must be invited into a home before it can pass the threshold. I'm not into our local film culture, Swedish cinema is usually awkward or simply slow and boring, and Let The Right One In is a Swedish film in every sense, but it uses most of the concepts to its advantage. The opening credits are dead silent, slowly fading into an image of falling snow. The environments are typical and typically mundane - the apartment building immersed in thick snow, the school with the eccentric and preoccupied teachers, and the local restaurant. But in this case, that's all we need.
The cinematography uses close-ups to reveal things very effectively, and the stark cold black battles the blinding white just as the subtle sounds make way for an occassional startling shock. I was mostly impressed with the makeup and effects, practical and digital, because they were surprising. It's apparent if you're paying attention, but it's subtle enough that you might miss it if you happen to look away at any given moment, and that adds to the overall eeriness and scariness of the film. If the camera is not in an intimate close-up, it's more often than not a wide shot showing us a broader scope of the environment.
The film is not about horror or shock, but it does have some very violent moments. Again, it's about teasing the audience, building some suspense, or just revealing something that is more surprising than scary - "what am I really looking at here" or "did I just see that"? If you're an impatient viewer, I wouldn't really recommend it - the film unravels slowly, and the pieces are apparent to the audience at the very beginning. It doesn't take a genius to see what'll happen, but you have to let yourself go with it if you want to enjoy the film. Again, it's a very Swedish film, and it does what we here seem to do best - it moves you in subtle ways, not by big drama, but by characterization and by unfolding a relationship almost in real time.
The music is mostly (again) subtle and (again) typical, with the use of a piano or just by dropping into complete silence, but in a few instances, it really lets itself be heard, and it is moving and effective.
Last but definitely not least are the performances. There are a few by-characters, your typical, almost farce-like bumbly Swedes, and then there is the guardian of Eli, a stern man who does what he is forced to do, but has a habit of messing it up. He becomes memorable because he doesn't show the absolute moral fiber or unyelding action that most characters would have in your "typical" movie. Despite a few people and events surrounding them, the film is really about the relationship between young Oskar and Eli. Oskar is played by Kåre Hedebrant, and he does get the weak side of Oskar through, but almost his entire performance is just as pathetic-like, which means that he never truly shines, but he still delivers an above average performance from a Swedish child actor. And then there's the magnificent Lina Leandersson as Eli, a pale but exotic girl with big sharp eyes that answers questions in clever matter-of-fact ways and is curious of all small things and matters. I know I've worn the word out already, but I don't think I've ever seen such a subtle performance from any child actor before. She simply is this character - never forced, stilted, worried or unconvincing. It sounds dramatic, but she quite literally (I noticed it in one scene, whether intended or not) has an aura around her, making her entizing but somewhat frightening all at the same time. She's fantastic.
In closing, Låt Den Rätte Komma In / Let The Right One In is not an extremely horrifying or even that surprising film. It is no revolutionary masterpiece of vampire cinema. But it is however on the opposite side of the spectrum from flashier films like From Dusk Til Dawn or Twilight, and I can't help but recommend it if you're looking for something more endearing, visceral and skillfully subdued. It has its flaws, and it's still a somewhat awkward film in a sense, that I know certain people will have a hard time taking to heart - but it's also one of the most memorable vampire films I've come across and without a doubt the best Swedish film I've seen so far.
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Lina Leandersson
Released by: Sandrew Metronome