From Sweden, the home of ABBA, Volvo, IKEA and SAAB, comes this unusual vampire tale. Based on the best selling novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let The Right One In tells the story of the connection between Oskar, a 12 year old who is being bullied at school, and Eli, a young girl who moves into the apartment next door. At first Eli seems painfully shy, introverted. She turns out to be a vampire, who only comes out at night. A strange friendship develops between these two alienated adolescents, outsiders who don’t fit in to their normal suburban surroundings, and she gives him the strength to conquer his fears. There will be blood, and this poetically beautiful but chilling tale makes the recent Twilight seem almost anemic by comparison.

Let The Right One In marks the first foray into horror films by 43-year old Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, who hails from a family of filmmakers and who has been working in film and television for twenty years. His father Hans is a writer, director and actor who also worked at Sveriges Radio, while his brother Daniel is also a director of some note in their native Sweden. His father started making films after working as a playwright in the ‘50’s, and Tomas virtually grew up in a film environment, spending all his summers on film sets. “Everything was concentrated around the film making, everybody in the family was emotionally involved in their work,” he says. Although he never felt like he was compelled to follow in his father’s footsteps, he admits “I really had no choice to do anything else.”

Although he has a background in comedy, Alfredson was drawn to the book and the central characters, especially the love story at the crux of the story. “I have never been much of a horror fan,” he confesses, “but this was something quite new, an unusual meeting between realism and horror. It was quite believable.”

Alfredson worked with Lindqvist on the unenviable task of trying to compress the 400-page novel into a 100-minute film. “I wanted to capture the ambience of the novel,” he explains. “I was picking out the juicy bits in the middle, and I tried to concentrate on the love story. People who have seen the film feel that we have been loyal to the book.”

The casting of Oskar and Eli is central to the film, and the search for the right young actors took twelve months. Alfredson saw some 1000 children before eventually deciding on Kare Hedebrandt and Lina Leandersson. Kare was a boy who he felt was right for the part of Oskar, “a boy who looks very pale and fragile, a person who grows on you slowly, and has strong integrity.” And Lina “has this old soul, which was right for Eli, who seems to be an old woman in the body of a child. She’s everything he is not.”

The film was shot over 50 days, but Alfredson didn’t let his two young stars read the script beforehand. “It was too heavy a burden to place on their young shoulders,” he says. Instead he fed them the pages for their particular scenes on the day of the shoot.

The film has a particularly cold look and feel, which was a deliberate stylistic choice on Alfredson’s part. He wanted to capture “the cruel beauty of the Swedish winter, this sleeping beauty landscape where everything has stopped, where you can see the people’s breath on the air. Everything is artificial, and the reality is very spooky. But it is very difficult to communicate cold on film.”

Alfredson also downplays the more graphic elements of the material. “It contains so much violence that if you show too much too early audiences get bored, it loses its force. I wanted to show a little, to get under the skin. The challenge is to do it methodically so as not to make such a big effort to make an audience feel sick, but to make them feel afraid.”

Let The Right One In has travelled well on the international film festival circuit where it has received positive reviews and generally been well received by the public in over 60 festivals. Film festivals are an important tool for taking challenging films like this to an audience, Alfredson says. “This little film wouldn’t have done so well without them. They are fantastic, and they do great work in making different cultures meet.”

As with many other European films there are already plans for a Hollywood remake of Let The Right One In. Many European directors have been lured to Hollywood to remake their own films and have found their artistic vision compromised by working within the studio system and its commercial sensibilities. Dutchman George Sluizer made his shot by shot remake of the thriller The Vanishing; French director Francis Veber has remade several of his brisk comedies; and even Austrian misanthrope Michael Haneke recently oversaw the shot by shot remake of his tense thriller Funny Games.

But unlike his colleagues who have been involved in these sanitised pale remakes of their films, Alfredson will not be involved in the remake. “I’m not involved in doing the remake,” he admits. “At first, I was sad and kind of jealous of the idea. But now I’m more settled. I feel kind of sad that this great film nation cannot consume non-English language films.”


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