Friday, September 17, 2010

Let The Right One In (Movie)

I told you there’d be more on this…

It’s been a while since I read John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let The Right One In. I enjoyed it, but I’ve had the DVD sitting on the shelf for a year without watching it. Why the delay? I don’t like to watch a movie too soon after I’ve read the book on which it’s based. My feeling is reading a book tends to be an immersive experience, and if it’s any good, the mental images formed during the reading tend to overpower the more passively perceived ones from a motion picture. This, I think, is one of the reasons people tend to hate movies made from their favorite books. During the gap, two of my friends whose opinions I respect watched the movie. One hated it, one loved it. This made me fairly curious as to how I would see it.

I won’t rehash the plot elements it has in common with the book, since I’ve already done that in my original post, but I’ll mention a few things that are different. Most of the subplots are dropped, which is typical, since a filmed novel would be far too long to show as a movie, but there are two truly significant differences between the book and its adaptation. First of all, the character of Håkan is all but lost. In the book, he is a pedophile, in love with and devoted to the eternally 12-year-old vampire. That’s a pretty heavy theme, and the director of the film didn’t think he could devote enough time to it to do it justice. He’s probably right, but it reduces Håkan to a cipher. We don’t know who he is or why he stays with Eli, and more importantly, why he is willing to kill for her. Secondly, there is something of a shift away from the supernatural aspect of the story towards more of a romance between the immortal Eli and the bullied Oskar. Not that the supernatural is absent from the film, or that the romantic angle wasn’t present in the novel, but there is a definite tonal shift. This doesn’t necessarily make the movie worse, just…different.

The movie is beautifully photographed, although with a cold austerity rather than warm, bright colors. The snow is so prevalent as to almost be a character in the film. I thought the movie was as faithful an adaptation of the book as it could be, since there was no way to get everything in. In the end, I was more in tune with the friend who loved the movie, although I didn’t like it quite as much as he did. There are times the languid pacing of the film almost drowns it, but overall, it was a fine movie.

One explanation for why I didn’t rave over the movie as much as some may be found here. Apparently, when the U.S. distributor re-worked the subtitles for the DVD release, they lost much of the nuance and black humor of the movie. The site referenced offers some good examples, and a history of the controversy.

There is an American remake on the way (Let Me In, this time) which promises further deviations from the original material. Contrary to most that seem to feel the sky is falling on them when a movie they like is remade, I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. Bad or good, it won’t change the movie I still have on the shelf.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I've got the book on my pile to read. Should get around to it soon. I liked the movie, though. Better than most crap put out.