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Tomas Alfredson • Director

Romantic and terrifying adolescent vampires


- The success of Let the Right One In comes, above all, from the emotions evoked by this small, tender, romantic and terrifying love story

Tomas   Alfredson  • Director

Cinema seems to have rediscovered, from various angles, the classic figure of the vampire. Tomas Alfredson says he was never interested in horror films and the success of his Let the Right One In [+see also:
film review
interview: John Nordling
interview: Tomas Alfredson
film profile
comes, above all, from the emotions evoked by this small, tender, romantic and terrifying love story.

Cineuropa: Why did you set the film in the 1980s?
Tomas Alfredson: The novel on which the film is based is set in 1982, when the author John Ajvide Lindqvist was 12, like Oskar, the young main character. The book is autobiographical, apart from, naturally, the vampires. Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay, at the end of the book wrote that everything in the book actually happened, although in that way. In any case, I think it’s easier to tell a not very realistic story such as this one on film if you set it in the past. Besides, back then Sweden was a very quiet country. Today, the situation is extremely different and I wanted to recover that silence of the past.

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You have spoken of a “Swedishness” that will assure the film a good chance at international success.
Oddly, the more specific something is, the more universal it becomes. The same is true for the globalization of the various art forms. Swedes are experts in communicating through silence. Even not answering a question can be an answer. I think this fascinates audiences tremendously, as do the winter landscapes. In Sweden, winter is a part of the year that forces us to live with perpetual darkness, and is what makes us stronger. I think this is also very interesting for audiences.

Can the film also be considered a reflection on Swedish society?
The story can be interpreted in different ways and I’m open to all of them. For some, Let the Right One In is a film on vintage cars, for others a coming-of-age tale, for others still a film about bullying. It’s not up to me to give the exact interpretation of the film, but I’m interested in hearing all the different opinions.

In the film, the parents and relatives are just barely hinted at.
The style of the screenplay was rather severe, there was truly very little dialogue, and what there was was very poetic. We were convinced that the film should be told through images. The older man who takes care of Eli was obviously a paedophile in the book. I think that today the subject of paedophilia is too often used to give stories an emotional special effect, without being thoroughly explored. I didn’t want such a complex, strong and disconcerting subject to have a disturbing effect on the love story between the two main characters.

What kind of stylistic choices did you make to set yourselves apart from previous vampire films?
I must admit that before making this film I didn’t know anything about the vampire myth. I had only seen a few [vampire] films in the past and they didn’t particularly strike me. So it was completely new for me and Lindqvist helped me a lot in studying the vampire myth. We played around with some clichés, but recovered the lost idea that a vampire can enter someone else’s house only if invited.

Can you tell us a little something about the soundtrack?
We thought it would be interesting to explore the most romantic side of the story, and not to use the music to create suspense. It would have been too disturbing. Johan Soderqvist, who scored the film, found a unique instrument, the waterphone, which has a cold and wintery sound, which perfectly recreated the sound of ice. The music is entirely analogue, played by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, without any digital whatsoever.

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