When I missed the boat on the vampire craze that’s been fixating the American tv/movie lover as of late, I also missed the relatively massive exposure this Swedish film received in the wake of its inferior but still pretty good 2010 American version. Let the Right One In (2008) was timely in its release, and though there was no bestselling novel accompanying it (at least not in English), or teen-dream like Robert Pattinson striking angst-ridden poses throughout, the film does a beautiful job capturing the greatest vampire trope of all: the coexistence of a fanged, violent, predatory addict and a vulnerable, fleshy, longing human being.
One of the things that makes the film so intriguing (especially for Mockingbirds) is how the love story takes primacy over the chilling vampire kills. You’re not watching because you want to see what this vampire is going to do to the next unsuspecting passerby; you are watching a boy and girl fall in love in an utterly dark world, and wondering how their affection is going to survive amidst the obstacles of addiction, mortality, and secrecy. Oskar is a needly middle-school boy, friendless and bullied, weirdly obsessed with abnormal crime stories in the paper, with some substantial anger issues due to said bullies, not to mention divorced parents (he idolizes his father, who doesn’t know all too well). He falls for Eli, the creepy-cutie who lives next door and is obviously hiding some things, but she is interested and there, and that’s enough for Oskar. Again, the theme of “In the name of love, I’ll do most anything” is what conquers here—the emphasis, for the most part, is off the whole when-is-she-going-to-eat-him vampirology.
This sensational emphasis is dethroned in a touching scene where Eli—on her silent vampire haunches—is invited through the snowy window of Oskar’s room to come in. You can assume Oskar’s in dream state because she’s barefoot outside his third-floor apartment window in Swedish winter! And yet, when she enters the bed of this vulnerable pre-teen, we see the motif shift into something else. Cinematographically, the nakedness of Oskar’s neck is begging for the bite; and yet, instead, we watch love conquer death, two hands hold, and Oskar’s—not Eli’s—motives become tenderly clear.
O: Eli… Want to go steady?
E: What do you mean?
O: Well… Do you want to be my girlfriend?
E: Oskar… I’m not a girl.
O: Oh… But do you want to go steady or not?
E: Couldn’t we just keep things the way they are?
O: I guess…
E: Do you do anything special when you go steady?
E: So everything’s the same?
E: Then we’ll go steady… It’ll be you and me.
O: Really? Good.
The following clip captures the aftermath of “going steady,” the pain that one is willing to draw oneself into for the sake of love, as well as the pain that comes from “finding out” about the beloved, the identification of those hidden realities within the person you have come to love. Again, though, you see a love that compels one beyond desire of/for “flesh”.