The Vampire Affect On Our Lives in Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In

Posted by Stuart Lindsay on March 03, 2009 in Blog tagged with

 

By way of the Modern Gothic, the vampire has come to represent the outcast and disaffected people in our lives. Troubled individuals, social problems, and even our own senses of personal alienation have been transposed onto and expressed by the vampire. However, moving away from the popular theory expressed by Nina Auerbach where it is society that produces vampires, these vampires are now, in turn, affecting this very society and bringing about resolution to its problems. There is a movement towards accepting vampires and their otherness: a demonstration where both they and humans can co-habit the world.

 

Shown at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In portrays the life of troubled pre-teen Oskar, bullied at school and a child of separated parents. He soon discovers that his new neighbour, a mysterious young girl called Eli, is actually a vampire. As their relationship develops, she decides to put her supernatural powers to use in aiding Oskar, supporting him psychologically and physically whilst producing change and resolution in his life. Whilst it has become an almost standard practice within Modern Gothic film to adopt the subjectivity of the vampire, Let The Right One In instead focuses primarily on the perspective of Oskar. The film is abound with images of support from Eli: after a night of killing, she climbs into Oskar’s bed. Rather than being shot from above showing the pair equally in the frame, the camera is positioned at the side of the bed with Oskar’s face in close up, and Eli’s hovering behind it. This framing helps to shape the narration of the film, showing which character is primary and which one is supporting. Also, not only does Eli tell Oskar to fight back against his school bullies, but she also comes to his aid when they capture and begin a course of torture by drowning him in the swimming pool for an agreed three minutes. In what is probably the film’s defining scene, almost Hitchcockian in its suspense, the camera focuses on Oskar’s pained expression under the water as he desperately tries to hold his breath and outlast the time. Eli comes to Oskar’s rescue and kills the bullies. Rather than revel in the vampiric power of the violence however, the camera remains underwater with Oskar, as the effects of Eli on his captors play about him: a body is dragged through the water above, and the arm holding his head down is severed and gently falls to the floor. She then offers her own in its place, and pulls Oskar out of the swimming pool. Thus, it is Oskar’s reaction to the vampire, and not the vampire itself, which Let The Right One In focuses on. Although Eli is endowed with her own sense of subjectivity (she is at times a sympathetic and remorseful character) it is through Oskar’s perspective from which we learn of it. For example, Oskar’s inquisitiveness allows us to learn about the film’s depiction of vampirism: when he offers her sweets we know she cannot ingest food, and we learn what would happen to her if she were not invited into a house when Oscar asks himself.

 

The end of the film posits a notion of positivity, with Oskar and Eli together, even as her vampiric condition is rendered painfully obvious. As they depart together on the train, she is lying in her coffin, and they continue to communicate through Morse code, a tapping on the coffin surface and a sound which bridges the gap between humanity and vampires. Here, the vampire is not locked into and isolated by their condition. Eli does not kill Oskar, who in turn accepts her for what she is. She brings about change and progress which, while it does not remove her need to kill to survive, it does forge for both Oskar and herself a meaningful connection to the world through their friendship.

 

By Stuart Lindsay

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