In most parts of the world showing foreign movies in the theaters is something normal and commonplace. When there is a big international blockbuster film it will be purchased by a local distributor, then translated into the local language and sold to the local cinemas who will either get a subtitled or dubbed version. This almost never happens in the US though. Foreign language films just don’t sell here. What happens in America is this: when a big foreign film comes along, someone in Hollywood buys the rights to the script, then hires his own cast and re-shoots the whole damn thing from scratch. Entire film is localized, names of characters, towns and businesses are changed and new dialog is added to remove all possible nuances that could be alien to the average American viewer, and to explain more complex elements to the audience in case they did not get it.
I have not seen Let Me In yet. I usually don’t watch these cultural conversions/localized remakes because they are almost always worse than the originals. In this case I am willing to make an exception because Hit Girl who is possibly the first non annoying child actress I have seen in years. I doubt that the re-imagined version will rise up to my expectations. For one, the original was shot with a great deal of artistry. The framing of the shots makes the stillness of the Swedish winter almost palpable. Not to mention that the bleak and gray, high rise apartment buildings where young Oscar meets his vampire friend are almost hauntingly similar to the neighborhood where I grew up. So is the entrance to the indoor pool – it looks almost exactly like the pool I used to frequent while in high school.
Both Oscar and Eli are lonely. Oscar is a quiet kid, with well meaning emotionally distant divorced parents. He has no friends, and he is the favorite target of the local bullies. Eli is a little bit like Claudia from Interview with the Vampire – an immortal trapped in a 12 year old’s body. She lives with a middle aged man who is her daylight handler. Is he her thrall, her father, or perhaps her former lover who aged while she remained youthful? We are not told, but this man is her only companion. Until of course she meets her new neighbor Oscar – someone as lonely as she is. The two art drawn to each other from the start. Eli teaches the him how to stand up for himself, and he teaches her the Morse code so that they can communicate through the wall that separates their bedrooms. Unfortunately, Eli and her companion are not very careful while “hunting” for new victims. Bodies start to pile up, police is whipped up into frenzy, and then the proverbial shit hits the fan when Eli’s handler gets caught red handed trying to drain a victim’s blood.
What is interesting is that the relationship between Eli and Oscar is real and believable, even though they don’t talk much. They are both quiet, reserved and withdrawn, but they communicate without words. Their connection transcends language and exists somewhere in between. This is part of this movie’s charm. It is full of those peaceful, silent moments with the two young lovers just sitting enjoying each others company. There are also other quiet shots that establish their respective loneliness – Oscar walking home from school, eating dinner, etc.. Even the violence is slow boiling, quiet and deliberate.
The film ends with extreme violence, and then a shot of the two young lovers leaving on a train together. A happy ending perhaps. Or maybe not. I wondered whether or not Eli orchestrated everything that happen because she needed a new human thrall. After all, she admits to being quite old. Perhaps this was not innocent young love, but a deliberate attempt to ensnare a new handler. Oscar is young, impressionable, misunderstood and lonely – he can be raised and trained. And when he grows up, he can easily pose as her legal guardian – and by that time, her hold upon him will be almost absolute.
It is a very good movie. Watch it. I think they have it on Netflix.