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Will Let Me In Do Right by Let the Right One In?

July 6, 2010

You should know right off that Swedish film Let the Right One In is a love story, which is why IMDb includes it in the romance genre (along with drama, horror, and mystery).  It’s a beautiful love story.  Morbid, sick, and wrong (especially given the age of the characters and a 1-second scene when changing clothes—you’ll know it when you see it), but beautiful nonetheless.   It also turns out to be a hell of a vampire movie.

As you may or may not know, an American remake called Let Me In is due on October 1, 2010.  This scares me for several reasons.  The Swedish film works so well in large part because the actors playing 12-year-old Oskar and 12-going-on-200-year-old Eli nail the childish innocence but nascent understanding of the world as a dark and dangerous place; and existential loneliness even at such a young age.  Their vocal and physical androgyny also adds to the purity of the love story.  I simply can’t imagine a studio allowing a film for an American audience to keep these elements, especially for pre-teen characters.  The subtlety will probably disappear, replaced by head-tilted-downward menacing looks and devious smiles.  The Let Me In trailer is a little ambiguous, seeming to keep a lot of the Swedish version’s narrative details, but losing Eli’s griminess (“Eli” is “Abby” in the American film).

The setting for Let the Right One In, the wintry north of Sweden in 1982, fits perfectly.  The film uses lighting (dark/night, inside/outside) and the stark white of snow with the gray/black sky so well, giving the town an isolated feel even though it’s rather well-populated.  Set against these extremes, the red blood and brighter colors of the clothing really stand out.  An unsettling quiet results from the sparing use of background music.   The narrative pacing is patient, not boring.  Clues to back story, relationships, and even the future are sprinkled throughout, but rarely thrown in the viewer’s face.  We don’t know how Eli got to be the way she is, besides the obvious—she got bitten.  We don’t know who Hakan (“The Father” and Eli’s current caretaker) is or how he got to be the way he is.  But that lack of exposition doesn’t matter so much because the part of the story that is told is so engaging.  Again, I can’t see the American version employing the storytelling subtleties and small victories of mise-en-scene that help set Let the Right One In apart.  The title change, abridged due to its length (!) with the first US book release but later distributed with the original “long” name, gives a different, more aggressive impression that doesn’t necessarily fit the Swedish movie.

So yes, I’m worried that the translation to the American big-screen is going to strip away the finer filmmaking elements of the original and will probably play down the creepy interactions between Eli/Abby and Hakan.  I’m worried that Let Me In will try to cram in too much back story—there’s a character called Original Vampire who doesn’t appear in any form in Let the Right One In—while giving short shrift to the present.  I’m worried that the American version will add unnecessary flourishes like flashy jump cuts to give a cheap-shot scare.  (Fine in over-the-top horror movies like Drag Me To Hell but they would be misused here.)  In short, I’m worried that the American version will, well, Americanize the fantastic Swedish version, all because the makers underestimate the American audience.  All I’m asking is that they prove me wrong.

3 Comments
  1. Mark M permalink
    July 7, 2010 11:10 am

    This can’t end well.

  2. T. Stump permalink
    October 31, 2011 3:24 pm

    As Mark Kermode of BBC 5 Live said, “I’ve already let the right one in. Why should I let you in?”

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