Sunday, November 18, 2012

Horror Literacy: Let the Right One In (2008)


In preparing for this short response, I browsed other internet articles on Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In. Most commentators and reviewers state how LtROI stands out from the pack of 2000s vampire revival culture. I can honestly say I feel removed from that discussion (I know nothing about Twilight and Ann Rice). Instead, this short response considers LtROI's spatial positioning of the vampire in comparison to Murnau's  Nosferatu (1920). Both European vampire films, they rely on the vampire living close to the protagonist's window (Figures 1&2).

Figure 1: http://www.silentsaregolden.com/featurefolder4/nosferatu18.jpg

Figure 2: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xsDRACo97Xo/TprhlCd7KWI/AAAAAAAABYQ/xt9evSu1IjQ/s1600/windows.jpg
Nosferatu takes us residence in an abandoned wearhouse that looks directly into the bedroom of the protagonist's girl. LtROI places Eli's apartment adjacent to Oskar's apartment. Axial vs Adjacent. This is the core reason so many critics are quick to claim LtROI is a refreshing escape from other vampire cinema.

The rat-like Count Orlock in Nosferatu defines his existence by lusting over his female victim. His voyeuristic gaze seeks to hypnotize the young maiden to leave her defenseless. As a result, the vampire lives as a horrific abomination in opposition to society. LtROI opens with Oskar looking out the window. He sees his partial reflection and fixates on a bully that harasses him at school. There is not vampiric "other" that gazes back at Oskar, he is all alone in his muted and dreary apartment complex.

I enjoy that the first segment of the film is actually two parallel narratives: Oskar's isolated school life, and Hakan's task to harvest blood as an unexplained guardian for Eli. Compounding the divisive nature of the film is the elderly circle of friends who also live in the apartment complex. The few murderous junctions that propel the plot are the only times they overlap with the young leads. Oskar's school is another isolated narrative that only connects to the vampire plot during the ice skating scene and the final slaughter of the bullies. This division speaks to the vampire's role in an alienated society.

Oskar wants to connect with Eli to remedy his isolation. Morse code through the apartment walls and an failed "blood pact" are two examples of his courage to reach out and befriend Eli in spite of her folklore status as a demonic entity.

Looking at the title, both Oskar and Count Orlock's victim had to let the vampire in, by verbal acknowledgement or physically opening the window. In Nosferatu, the woman believes that only through her sacrifice can she trap the vampire to die by sunlight. She "lets in" the vampire to destroy it. Oskar however lets Eli in to help himself find meaning and love. His undergoes an empowering, stunning transformation by being around Eli. Bopping around his living room, rocking to some tunes while waiting for Eli to finish her shower, he looks five years older in style and motivation. His vampire next door is the gateway into puberty.

No longer does such the blood sucker plague society by existing in opposition to European communities. Instead, the vampire lives at the fringes of our lives, whose monstrosity is secondary to draining self alienation and despair that already infects the population. Instead, her monstrous instincts empower Oskar, the runt of society.

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