March 2, 2009

Everyone Likes A Good Suck

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When we think of vampires, a negative image usually tends to form in our minds. We imagine creatures of the night, surviving off the blood of humans and killing indiscriminately, without emotion. In the past year, with the release of Twilight, many (mostly adolescent girls and young women) saw this stereotype change. In fact, it seemed that vampires, non mortal creatures, could actually have the potential to garner characteristics that only humans are known to possess. These included empathy, compassion, and in the case of Edward Cullen from Twilight, romantic love. This sort of counter intuition to those qualities we would normally attribute to the vampire clan can be traced back in our generation to Buffy the Vampire Slayer fell in love with a vampire, something a vampire slayer normally would not do. Yet, both Twilight and Buffy lack the credibility to fully understand and successfully portray what it means to be a vampire; what is lost when a human is deprived of his or her mortality and left to live eternity as a demonic being.
Let The Right One In, a Swedish film released last year, successfully achieves this portrayal. It follows a twelve-year-old boy named Oskar, a social outcast with no friends, who regularly tries to defend himself from the attacks of the school bully and his posse. All of this changes when Eli and her father move in to the same apartment complex that Oskar and his mother occupy. Oskar’s first encounter with Eli is on the play structure of their apartment complex. While Oskar sits upon the jungle gym in the snow, wearing his winter coat, boots and gloves, Eli stands at the top of the structure, seemingly more of a presence than a person, with a thin layer of clothing on. This is the spot where their friendship develops. Oskar begins to anticipate his encounters with Eli at the play structure. He shares things with her, like his Rubik’s cube, which he has been unable to solve but which she is able to solve within a day. Yet, Eli’s true being, that of a vampire, is not revealed to Oskar for quite some time, and for a short period of time the two remain young, innocent creatures (at least in appearance) with limited concerns.
One thing to point out is that Eli is different from other vampires in the sense that she usually does not kill her victims. In fact, probably the most peculiar aspect of the film was that her father would kill people for her and drain their blood. The one instance in which we see him doing this is at the beginning of the film where he anesthetizes someone in a park, hangs them upside down from a tree and then drains their blood into a container for Eli to drink later. Midway through doing this, Eli’s father is seen, making it impossible for him to repeat the act again in the near future. Because of this, Eli begins to kill her victims, and Oskar realizes that Eli is not who he originally thought she was. Ultimately though, Eli is not a heartless creature. In fact, when Oskar offers his blood as a sign of friendship, Eli tells Oskar to run as far from her as he can, so that she can save him from herself. The nature of Eli and Oskar’s friendship is on the brink of a romance throughout the film. It displays a sense of the natural care and devotion they have for one another without having the sentimentality of their relationship thrust upon the audience. Eli does much of what she does in the film for Oskar, at some points sacrificing herself in order to prove how much she cares for him.
Oskar and Eli share this common bond because they have been deprived of the normalcy and innocence of childhood: Oskar through being bullied and Eli through being undead. If vampires were real, if love were real, this film would illustrate the true nature of such things. I would have to say, by far, that this was my favorite film of 2008. In comparison to a film like Twilight, Let the Right One In is a successful manifestation of what Stephenie Meyers may have hoped to achieve with her novels. So, if you haven’t gotten a chance to see Let the Right One In at Cinemapolis, where it’s been playing for quite some time, you can definitely see it at Cornell Cinema, which will be having showings of it this weekend.