Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Epiphany, where's the heresy?

There isn't going to be any. I've decided the 4th song should be the last. I'm only willing to be deliberately tiresome up to a point, and then I feel obliged to return to being tiresome in a more relaxed, inadvertent way.

So, enough religion. Let's talk about vampires. On Sunday afternoon Dave and I went to see Let the Right One In. It's a Swedish movie about an extremely blond little boy who gets the crap beaten out of him regularly by school bullies. Then he makes friends with a 12-year-old girl who turns out to be a vampire. They fall in love. There's a lot of blood. That's pretty much the plot. Sounds great, huh? Actually, it is great, one of the best movies I've seen lately. (And I've seen some excellent ones, including Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. Don't miss them.)

Julie has a good post over at her blog pondering the absence of passion in contemporary art, and I thought about posting a smart comment there about how ours is an ironic age, and irony is the enemy of passion, blah, blah, blah--but then I realized I had actually just seen a wonderful example of genuine passion in this silly little vampire flick. The boy in the film, Oskar, is a complex fellow, a tormented innocent who is pushed by cruelty to a very dark place in his soul. He endures his suffering with a furious ecstasy. The bullying enrages him, but he's embarrassed by his rage because he senses that there's something more to it than simple anger. The violence of the bullies and Oskar's private revenge fantasies both have an erotic tinge.

When the girl, Eli, shows up, the erotic energy is heightened and the repressed passion comes bursting forth, literally. You can read the relationship between the two children in a lot of ways: as an innocent romance corrupted by a wicked society; as a metaphor for the power struggle between the West and the rest of the world (Eli has a distinctly Semitic look); or as a study of Oskar's sexual awakening. To me it seemed like an account of a spiritual journey. Oskar starts out hoping for deliverance from his suffering, only to discover that deliverance comes through embracing the very thing he most feared. He learns that there is joy to be found in the blackest part of his soul.

Oops, there I go, back on religion again. I better stop now. Here's the trailer for Let the Right One In. Go see it if you get the chance.


Anonymous said...

Let the Right One In: romance, horror and realism united. Never have I seen so much blood and murder in a film, and still the film so beautiful. But everything that happens is in the boy's head, as a way of coping with the situation of bullying, and of gaining strength.
The novel, on which the film is based, I also strongly recommend (don't know if that is translated into English, although)

(Ps: Eli may have semittic facial features, but as Scandinavian myself I immediately places her as Turkish-swedish. We have a lot of second generation Turkish immigrants)

BitterGrace said...

I would love to read the novel. I just checked online, and it does seem to be out in English--probably in anticipation of a really bad Hollywood remake of this wonderful film.

Isn't Lina Leandersson (Eli) the most amazing little actress? And so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Yes she is :)
ah, almost everything was good in this film, even the outdoor atmosphere - winter dread at its most depressing, the pale boy almost disappearing in all the whiteness, the red blood against the white (my 14 year old boy wanted to see it, but I disadvised because of all the violence, perhaps I shouldn't have done so..)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved that movie. Loved. Glad to see the review here! Love your blog.

Julie H. Rose said...

Not playing in Maine. I'll have to wait for it in DVD.

Contrast and compare with Twilight, which I believe the NYTimes described as having a vampire one would feel comfortable taking home to the parents.

Irony and our fear of real sexuality - the death of passion.

BitterGrace said...

I can see why you'd be uneasy about your son seeing it, Stella. The violence is very seductive. It's not mindless, though--Eli is really tortured by the way she is forced to live.

Hi, Fountaingirl. Thanks for the kind words, and for chiming in. I assumed your screen name was a reference to Caron, but your livejournal page makes me suspect it's something less prosaic.

Julie, I think you'd love this movie. It's fierce. It certainly ought to be playing in Maine. The winter landscape is like a character.

Mary said...

Thanks for bringing this film to my attention - I'll be looking for it, either at the theater or on DVD.