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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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