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Let Me In, or Let the Right One In?

Tuesday 12 October 2010, 16:31

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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As you probably know, there's a Hollywood remake by the Cloverfield guy of my favourite film of last year, Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In. But how does it measure up? Can it measure up? And did you ever see an American remake of a European movie that did measure up?

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    Comment number 1.

    Are there is some american "union" rules regarding the hollywood remakes? Or perhaps it is more along the lines of the Godfather and its use of subtitles arguments...

    The most criminal remake was, in my opinion, The Ladykillers...

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    Comment number 2.

    I may end up watching the remake but i loved the original so much that i have for now decided not to watch the remake. From the trailer it looks very similar in its look and style to the original and i dont want scenes from the remake entering my mind as i rewatch the origial incase it spoils it. also i was trying to think of a remake i have seen and prefered after watching the original first and i cant think of any so i might as well not bother.

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    Comment number 3.

    Anytime this issue arises, the point remains the same: no matter how good, original or groundbreaking a particular film is, there is a significant proportion of the North American/British movie-going audience who will simply refuse to see it with subtitles.

    Short of a major cultural shift and as long as there's a dearth of original ideas in Hollywood, there's always going to be a potential market for English language remakes of successful foreign language films. Whether or not something is lost in translation is somewhat of a moot point; the intended audience will not likely see the original and therefore can't make a reasonable comparison. It's just down to pedants and critics (same thing surely?) to get upset about...

    p.s. Funny Games (US) was rather effective I thought and didn't deserve the critical kicking it got merely for being a remake.

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    Comment number 4.

    I've no real problem with remakes. They're not sacred texts and nowhere is it written that Thou Shalt Not Muck Around With Movies That Are Perfectly Fine To Start With. If the Coens want to put their own spin on The Ladykillers: well, I say let them. As it turned out, I quite enjoyed it, but then I have no particular loyalty to the Ealing version. On the other hand, if Tony Scott wants to have a bash at the marvellous Taking Of Pelham 123, he's welcome - it's a free country - but the results stank mightily, not just as a remake of a fine original but as a film in its own right.

    Some might argue that Wes Craven's The Last House On The Left is a better film than Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring. I wouldn't know - I've never seen the Bergman film - but I genuinely dislike Last House. And I don't think it's an officially credited remake.

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    Comment number 5.

    I saw the film, and I must admit, having had rather strange feelings about the original. I see where you're coming from with regards to the remake, but I must admit, I like it much more than I thought I would, and not just because as an old-time horror fan, it was great to see the Hammer logo again, though that was certainly a treat. The original certainly an interesting film, and the remake has generated much criticism for largely simply regurgitating the original with the language changed. But I think that the remake has many things to recommend it, no the least of which are the terrific performances. I don't think at all that the new version plays up the supernatural elements to a stronger extent (if only because so little from the original has been changed), and I don't think that it misses the themes of the original in favor of special effects or any such criticism. On the contrary, I think that the film was in some ways, perhaps too slavishly faithful. I think that at least part of the problem with remakes of foreign films is that sometimes American filmmakers who simply reproduce the original either fail to see what made the original special (which I do NOT think was the case with LET ME IN) or that in seeing that, they fail to take it in any new director. The icy blues and the snowy setting where very much a part of the original. Now, I've never been to Sweden, but thanks to people like August Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman, I think that it has a certain perception of being not unlike LET THE RIGHT ONE IN depicts it. Even living in a place in the States know for it's cold winters, I couldn't help but feel like winter depicted in LET ME IN was simply Sweden moved to New Mexico. Not being from New Mexico, maybe it's accurate, but what my ramblings are getting at is that at least in part, FOREIGN films are a product of a certain time and place. If you're going to remake a film, I think that a great director should, at least, take the fundamental material and apply it to a different context. If you take a film that's about the time and the place of its making and attempt to transplant it and lose the context, then ultimately, you lose the overall meaning, rather than taking the meaning and transplanting that. One of the most interesting things LET ME IN flirts with is the ideas about the Reagan-era politics and religious ideas that inform the viewpoint of the Owen character, something that the film leaves frustratingly unexplored. If, for example, the story had been transplanted into, say, hot climate, but still was thematically similar, you'd hit on my central idea, clunky as it may be. I think that ultimately, it should be more about the themes and ideas than the setting, otherwise you're just regurgitating the same thing in English and perpetuating the stereotype that American won't watch a foreign movie not matter how good because we don't like to read. I rather like LET ME IN. I find it a much less distancing film than it's predecessor and I felt slightly more emotionally involving and somewhat warmer, though that is a bit odd for a film about embracing evil, I suppose. But overall, I think that the film is pretty good.

    It's easy to see why Guillermo del Toro threw his weight behind a film about just how horrible it is to be innocent. In the end, like Pan's Labyrinth, it hardly matters if you deal with the supernatural or not; the world is an ugly place, but beauty and good are things worth fighting for. It's to Reeves' credit that in a world of happy endings and love defined by Taylor Swift songs, he's willing to look at something so dark, though I question just how well audiences will take to it, Mortez is a wonderful actress, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is nice lead with plenty of presence and little of the annoyance that accompanies so many child actors, and the two give the film a very solid emotional core. Reeves' clearly has his heart in the right place, but it's easy to see why he's been accused of hitting all the notes but missing the music. But in the end, my own rather confused reaction to the original film carries over anyway. At once a tender love story and a tale of an innocent embracing evil, I was never entirely sure how to take the film or exactly what it's message was. The finale suggests that Owen is on the road to becoming Abby's new familiar, but the simultaneous suggestion of somehow tender love and that living forever doesn't much matter if you don't have something worth living for ultimately feels confusing. The film jettisons the original film ambiguity about Abby's gender (an issue further expounded upon in the novel I have not read, apparently). It's further complicated by the suggestions of the lead's budding sexual curiosity (another idea expounded upon slightly but not fully explored by Reeves) I was never sure how to take the the tender but uncomfortable look at prepubescent sexuality anyways, so it further confused the issue for me anyway. Indeed, the film's double meaning title about being careful just what you let into your heart, its subtle but brilliant stroke. But in the end, perhaps Lindqvist, by removing one of the key components of the vampire mythology, suggests that maybe we don't see our reflection because once we embrace our true nature, it's something too terrible to behold.

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    Comment number 6.

    Let The Right One In was probably my favourite film of last year too (along with Bright Star). I'm pretty much dreading the remake, I can imagine myself sitting there squirming, getting more and more irritated as it goes on... even if it is a passable film.

    One of my favourite remakes of the last 10 years was Solaris, although it had none of the heavy content or depth of the original it worked well for a small simple story, and the 90 minute runtime was perfect for the film to showcase what it had to say.

    As for a remake better than the original, well I haven't seen Die Trapp-Familie, but if it's even on par as The Sound of Music I would be amazed.

    PS Sorcerer may not be as good as The Wages of Fear but it's still a good film!

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    Comment number 7.

    The real risk of going to see a remake of a film you love is that it may somehow besmirch your love for the original. For that reason I'll probably steer clear of this, and also from the Hollywood remake of the 36 (even though Martin Campbell's helming it).

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    Comment number 8.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with remaking films as long as it is done with some sort of class and talent behind it. Twelve Monkeys for instance was a very good reimagining of Le Jetee. We all know the story of The Departed and Insomnia. Without remakes, we wouldn't have those films but they did have the great talents of Scorsese, Nolan and Gilliam behind them.
    Saying this I nearly had a heart attack when i heard that years ago, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were planning on remaking Casablanca. Thankfully this didn't happen but it would have been a tragedy of epic proportions.
    To reiterate my point, as long as talented people want to remake or reimagine a film, I think that is OK. Lets just keep the classics away from Michael Bay's production company and we'll be fine..

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    Comment number 9.

    The only remake of a foreign film that I liked, that I can think of right now, was The Departed, which I felt was significantly better then the original, which I did see first and was completely underwhelmed by it. That said, generally I do dislike remakes, even though I do agree with the point the previous poster has made about audiences refusing to see films with subtitles. Something definitely gets lost in the translation, in some cases things get toned down - The Ring (US) was nowhere near as scary as Ringu, and that goes for Dark Water and many of the other such horror remakes.

    I am however, biased. I liked foreign language films and have no problem with subtitles, so it does make me cringe when I see that Scorses has plans to remake Cache...

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    Comment number 10.

    I think Scorsese's Departed is a very good example of a film which lives up to the foreign original. Mainly because it does try to make a different film rather than copying the Asian 'Infernal Affairs', particularly the fantastic use of location, which although photographed in New York does beautifully capture the Boston streets. I would argue that the Scorsese film in particular areas is better than the original which does get at points incomprehensible to the point of tedium.

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    Comment number 11.

    What about 'Breathless'?

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    Comment number 12.

    I think it's a shame that the majority of mainstream audiences still have a fear of subtitled films, which seems to bring about these fast-tracked remakes of foreign language hits (see also: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

    But there will always be a few people who, upon enjoying a remake, will be keen to see the original (as I myself did with The Departed/Infernal Affairs).

    If Let Me In proves to be a success (which, in this post-Twilight vampire obsessed era, it has a good chance) then the subsequent renewed interest in the original (and the book) can only be a good thing.

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    Comment number 13.

    True Lies. It was much better than the french movie on which it was 'based'.

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    Comment number 14.

    Put me on the Let Me In bandwagon.

    On your closing comment: I have to disagree with the idea that Let Me In is a vampire film that features kids. One of the strengths this film has in favor of the original is that it snips off all of the weaker, rambling subplots and tightens the narrative in almost completely on the children, their lives and their relations to one another. The translation difference, to me, seems much more tonal. Let the Right One In is wider and colder and Let Me In is warmer and more intimate, both cinematically and in their character depictions - consider the differences in the two portrayals of Abby, for example. I don't think either of those approaches are wrong, in fact I thought both films were very respectful of their source material, but they are different and chances are good that a viewer is going to respond to one more strongly than the other. In my case, I found the latter more personally resonant.

    So to answer your question about an American remake of a European movie that did measure up, I suppose I would have to go with Let Me In, wouldn't I?

    The ending of the The Vanishing remake is just awful, by the way.

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    Comment number 15.

    I have only recently seen Let the Right One In and thought it a beautiful, equisite movie. I won't get the chance to see Let Me In until it arrives in Oz (who knows when).

    However, the English language remake I did enjoy was "The Birdcage" as opposed to the French language version, "La Cage aux Folles". Mainly because I liked Nathan Lane and Robin Williams together in their roles respectively than Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi. Lane and Williams had more chemistry to me and I would say the movie was more lighthearted with less angst.

    However, that said, I for one would prefer to see a foreign language film with subtitles, rather than an English language remake anyday. In fact, when watching a DVD of a foreign language movie, I prefer to have the subtitles and original language than a dubbed or remade version.

    The movie that I found unusual and a favourite in my DVD collection, is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The DVD has BOTH the Mandarin language version and one in English. It looks completely bizarre seeing the characters speaking their roles in English, than hearing the wonderful original language.

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    Comment number 16.

    I am trying to keep an open mind about let me in however after seeing a trailer which looks shot for shot like the sweedish film, the fact that i am annoyed at hollywood for remaking every good foreign film, has allways been in the back of my mind. Let The Right One In was one of my favorite films of last year second only to John Hillciat's The Road and it is one of the best books i have read since Cormac Mcarthy's The Road. I suppose since its there i might as well see what's been.

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    Comment number 17.

    I have always respected your reviews about films ever since I saw your documentary on censorship on bbc2 I think it was some time ago when the bbc did a banned season. I have now become very familiar with most of your reviews having seen you on youtube on your radio show with Mayo and I am not surprised your rants are so famous, they're more entertaining than the films you review most likely. But I have to say that lately you have been getting rather personal, at least for me.

    You did a blog before about films that should be burned, and someone included Twilight. One of your favourites, which I understand must have hit a nerve or two. But I have noticed lately that you seem to like having a go at nearly every film I happen to be a big fan of.

    One recently was Devil. M Night Shyamalan's clever supernatural thriller set in a lift. You had just seen a horrible tale about a man in a coffin, Buried. You also said you watched through your fingers, which is fair enough, but I honestly think you don't give films like Devil a chance, unless they shake you to your essense, like your famous favourite, The Excorcist. Well, you even went so far it seems to imply that it was boring, nothing special. Well, I saw it and I am a huge M Night fan obviously, and I think it's one of the best films he has made so far. He hasn't ever let me down and this was no different. And you did say something about Unbreakable needed constructive critisism to survive, but still did badly, yet I believe that was slammed by many critics too. I don't know if you were one of them of course.

    I saw your blog about Paranormal Activity, which I thought damn clever and loved it all the way, but you couldn't get scared by it, it didn't affect you. I am wondering if you sometimes expect too much from these horror films, and therefore are disappointed when they don't affect you the way you want. I persoanlly am not touching Buried, but I am so glad I saw Devil. You recommended the wrong one there, but I would like to recommend giving these other films a chance which you said yourself you struggle with.

    By the way, I like Sandra Bullock some of the time, but lay off Premonition! I have a copy and I thought was very clever, she couldn't save him in the end. What the hell was wrong with that? That got really personal. I like you, please don't spoil it!!

    Why do the ycall you Dr by the way?

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    Comment number 18.

    I'm kinda squiffy about the remake but not so adverse to it as I was to Quarantine; when people tell me they enjoyed Quarantine I have to leave the room before I resort to violence. The main reason for my ire is that the original [Rec] had a well made English dub made for it to appeal to those who detest subtitles, but a US version was made anyway and the US release of [Rec] was held back till after Quarantine had been in cinemas... that's decidedly underhanded even for Hollywood (Well... maybe not Jack Warner...)

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    Comment number 19.

    In a way I think that remakes need to be distanced from the original both in time of release and in tone. Otherwise it's just an insult to the original filmakers. Your film isn't good enough for us we can't be bothered to read subtitles therefore we are going to remake it shot for shot but in English with English speaking stars and release it straight after yours has been released!

    In some ways, some of the best remakes have taken an existing plot and turned it into something new. I'm thinking of The Magnificent Seven. Sturges remake is an homage to the Kurosawa's Seven Samurai without being a clone of it, allowing Samurai to remain a critically acclaimed film in it's own right. This to me seems a far more respectful way to remake a great foreign language movie, than to make a straight forward copy that doesn't quite hit the mark and release it on the coat tails of the original.

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    Comment number 20.

    Remakes pretty much show hollywood for what it is. A money making machine that happens to make films. Considering the sheer quantity of other non-hollywood movies being made it clearly demonstrates the lack of imagination. It may also be worth noting that on regular occasions it brings out multiple versions of the same type of movie so as to "hedge its bets". Hollywood has turned itself into a fast-food market and its primary focus is... chicken...

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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