Home > Reviews > LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (LÅT DEN RÄTTE KOMMA IN) – Johan Söderqvist


October 24, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

When I was a kid, vampires were evil creatures; dark and shadowy figures, middle-aged men clad in cloaks and cowls who could turn into bats. They were things which were to be feared, and to be reviled. Nowadays, in this era of goths and emos, of Buffy and Angel, and main street stores like Hot Topic, vampires are suddenly chic – they’ll still creep into your room at night and suck blood out of your neck, but instead of looking like Bela Lugosi they look like Brad Pitt, and are more likely to be found brooding in a corner somewhere, contemplating their hidden depths and exuding a dark, enticing sexuality. How times change.

Two teen vampire movies opened in the United States in late November 2008. One of them, Twilight, is a teenage Goth girl wish fulfillment fantasy based on a series of successful romantic novels. The other one, Let the Right One In, is from Sweden, and is by all accounts a much better and more fulfilling motion picture. The film – entitled ‘Låt Den Rätte Komma In’ in its native language – is directed by Thomas Alfredson from the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and stars Kåre Hedebrant as Oscar, a 12-year-old boy in 1980s Stockholm who suffers daily at the hands of bullies. Things change for Oscar, however, when he meets and falls for a beautiful but unusual girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), who has moved in next door with an older relative named Håkan (Per Ragnar); Eli can’t stand the sun, cannot eat regular food, and to come into a room she needs to be invited, but Oscar draws from her the strength he needs to fight his aggressors. It is not long, however, that Oscar discovers the shocking truth about Eli – she is a vampire…

The music for Let the Right One In is by Johan Söderqvist, whose work outside his native Sweden has been limited, but whose domestic successes include films such as After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet), Brothers (Brødre), and the action-thriller Rånarna. If Let the Right One In captures an international audience, it could prove to be Söderqvist’s big break in the wider world of film music, especially as the music is generally very good indeed. Written for the small, chamber-sized part of the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, with ambient electronics and solo performances by guitars and piano, the music cleverly depicts both the loneliness of Oscar’s life, and hesitant romance he shares with the equally lonely Eli.

The main thematic element is the beautiful theme for Eli, which first appears in the delicate “Eli and Oscar” and receives its first performance in the truly gorgeous “Eli’s Theme”. The theme is really the epitome of the modern depiction of the vampire: romantic, but misunderstood, dark, yet appealing, wanting to be loved, but destined to be alone. It’s a complex and conflicting set of emotions which Söderqvist somehow manages to encapsulate through his deceptively simplistic melody, in his moving string writing, and in the softly twinkling percussion which accompanies it. Later cues such as “Oscar in Love” and “Then We Are Together” deconstruct the theme for solo piano, while Mats Bergström’s solo guitar variations in “The Father” and “Going Home” are just sublime. The sweeping finale, “Let the Right One In”, is simply stunning.

There are heavy tragic overtones to the string writing in cues such as the opening “The Arrival” and “Oscar Strikes Back”, while “The Slaughter”, “Hiding the Body”, “Virginia Wakes Up”, “Giving Up” and the rather chilling “Virginia is Bitten” are moody and dissonant, extended exercises in unsettling sound design filled with groaning strings and shifting metallic synth tones. It’s these cues more than any others which bring the rating down a touch; of course, I fully understand why these cues sound the way they do, and I appreciate that they are wholly appropriate in context – it’s just that they’re just difficult to sit through on their own terms, and clearly pale in comparison to the beauty of the main theme.

It’s also worth mentioning the song, “Låt Den Rätte Komma In”, performed by Swedish rock band Baronen Selma. The song doesn’t appear on the commercial soundtrack CD, but apparently has been a chart success in Sweden, and is well worth seeking out, especially if you like ‘romantic rock’. Despite being sung in Swedish, the vocals by lead singer Andreas Sundelin Wiberg are infused with just enough gravel and tortured angst to overcome the language barrier and become enjoyable; I liked the song a lot, and I recommend you seek it out, as it complements the score well.

Despite my reservations about some of the more ambient sections of the score, Let the Right One In is still a score worth examining, if for no other reason than to explore the way in which non-Hollywood films approach the music for horror films. It’s clearly one of the better horror scores of 2008; Söderqvist’s lovely main themes are worth the price of the purchase alone, and hopefully will lead to a wider international exposure for this talented Swede.

Rating: ***½

Buy the Let the Right One In soundtrack from Movie Score Media.

Track Listing:

  • The Arrival (2:46)
  • Eli and Oscar (3:12)
  • Eli’s Theme (2:41)
  • The Slaughter (2:49)
  • Oscar in Love (2:11)
  • Hiding the Body (1:34)
  • After the Fight (1:06)
  • Oscar Strikes Back (1:37)
  • Virginia Wakes Up (1:10)
  • The Father (1:47)
  • Spotting a Victim (1:12)
  • Giving Up (2:20)
  • Death of Håkan (2:18)
  • Virginia Is Bitten (2:31)
  • Then We Are Together (2:42)
  • Virginia in Flames (2:15)
  • Eli Bleeds (1:45)
  • Related by Blood (1:34)
  • Lacke Dies (1:47)
  • Going Home (1:40)
  • Let the Right One In (5:49)

Running Time: 46 minutes 46 seconds

MovieScore Media MMS08022 (2008)

Music composed by Johan Söderqvist. Conducted and orchestrated by Hans Ek. Performed by The Slovak National Symphony Orchestra. Featured musical soloists Mats Bergström, Uno Helmersson, Erik Nilsson, Mattias Torell and Johan Söderqvist. Recorded and mixed by Peter Fuchs and Per Sundström. Album produced by Johan Söderqvist and Mikael Carlsson.

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