Let this into your DVD player...
By a customer
, 07 Feb 2009
Set in the bleak wintry town of Blackeberg, Stockholm in the early 80s, Oskar is a meek young boy torn between his estranged parents. This makes him the target of the school bullies which makes him regress further into himself. One night he meets the girl who moved into the building next door to him, named Eli (pronounced Ellie), who seems to be unaffected by the cold. Things are frosty between the two initially but slowly they bond and become friends. Both seem to have a positive effect on each as Eli gives Oskar the confidence to stand up to the bullies, while Oskar provides unconditional friendship for the mysterious Eli. What Oskar doesnt know however, is that Eli has a secret shes a vampire and is connected to the recent spate of murders in the area that began at the same time Eli arrived
Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, this is a vampire movie with a difference. It effectively turns the genre on its head by making the main bloodsucker a sympathetic character rather than the typically evil antagonist. Also the true gender of Eli is open to question (despite being played a girl) with subtle hints and red herrings in the dialogue and one brief but truly shocking scene that poses just as many questions as it supplies answers. She also has some odd foibles: such as needing to be invited into a room otherwise the repercussions are disturbing. Oskar meanwhile, is the antithesis of the human hero in that he has no desire to slay the vampire even when he does finally learn the truth. Instead he is just glad to have a friend.
Director Tomas Alfredson presents us with a paradoxical film: its a romance story that revolts and scares the viewer as much as it warms their hearts. Its about bullying and the effects it has on the psyche of the victim; its about acceptance and friendship against the odds when one does know exactly what the odds are; its about what is right and what is wrong and how much the strength of the relationship allows one to let their judgement be impaired.
Unlike regular horror films, the pace is deliberate and restrained; the events unravel nicely without undue haste or any real sense of urgency. The relationship between Oskar and Eli builds gradually, the growth of which is detailed through the most gentle and tender moments, the underlying subtext mirroring the true concerns of that first young love they are apparently heading towards. Whilst Oskar has his parents both of whom provide a different kind of life for him Eli has only her handler Håkan on her side: his job being to find blood for Eli. It is his ineptitude which sees him almost caught in the act on many occasions that leads to the rest of the townsfolk suspecting him and Eli and making an attempt on the young vampires life.
The casting, it has to be said, it absolutely perfect. The two leads are a natural pairing with amazing chemistry which is remarkable for two debutants. Kåre Hedebrant is the effete looking Oskar who, with his long blonde hair and pale skin - sometimes looks more feminine than Eli. There is something incredibly natural and honest about his portrayal and he makes Oskar someone to care about from the very first frame he appears in. But, it has to be said, the film belongs completely to Lina Leandersson as Eli. Her steely yet pained eyes, androgynous yet captivating face and her cold yet yearning delivery is simply too good to be true. She delivers a consistently authentic performance of a maturity and depth beyond her years that is both nuanced and clearly defined. A promising career beckons, I am sure of it.
Sadly, Hollywood has already commissioned a remake. It is unnecessary as this film has it all and in all honesty, cannot be bettered.
One of the best films of 2008 hands down.
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