The film stars Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar, an intelligent 12 year old boy bullied terribly at school, a social misfit (actually bordering on psychotic) and living with his seemingly workaholic mother and seeing his apparently alcoholic father on occasion. Bullying has been in the news rather a lot this year and it’s interesting to see its considerable negative impact on Oskar (I’ll say no more). Lina Leandersson plays Eli, the new girl on the block and Oskar’s next door neighbour. She is pale, beautiful, feels no cold and is a vampire. The whole film really hinges on the strength of their performances. And boy do they both deliver. Where are the Oscars for such talents? I despair. In fact, the supporting cast are brilliant too. This is not just a film but a social commentary and, as such, the actors play out their roles as though they’re in a documentary. The subtext of much of the film is disturbing and leaves a lingering taste in ones mouth – there are suggestions of psychosis, paedophilia and then you have the murder/killing and death too. So it’s odd I think it’s a beautiful film.
The film is beautifully shot – the wintery landscape of Sweden providing a suitably dark, chilling and oppressive atmosphere. What strikes you most when you watch the movie is that, at its core, this is almost a coming of age movie about two children looking for companionship and is presented in a very ‘matter of fact’ way. There are moments of tenderness and sadness in the film that left a real impact on me and that you can relate to (to a degree). I really want to mention two specific scenes but I’ll give away the story so I’ll stop myself. For me, the friendship/relationship that blossoms outshine the moments of very ‘matter of fact’ horror which are brilliantly done in a both a subtle and sometimes not so subtle way. My point is that this film is not about the horror. The horror is one element of a film that is really about the relationship between two children. But it can be construed from the film that it’s more than that – there may or may not be manipulation involved. It’s not straightforward as I’ve portrayed and it is quite complex. The films leaves out huge chunks of the novel so I’d strongly suggest you read the book too if you want more back story (the film is lacking in detail at points and raises lots of misleading questions which the book explains).
One final point, an English language remake is on its way in 2010 set in the US. I’m not sure I want to see it. It’s not needed unless you can’t stand watching films with subtitles … yes, you know who you are you strange people!