Tomas Alfredson, the Swedish director of 'Let the Right One In' talks to RTÉ.ie's Taragh Loughrey-Grant. The film, which has picked up 42 international awards over the last year, is based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. The story focuses on a 12-year-old boy Oscar who falls in love with a young vampire, Eli.
RTÉ.ie's Taragh Loughrey-Grant: What was it about Ajvide Lindqvist's book that made you want to adapt it for the big screen?
Tomas Alfredson: It started about four years ago when I was given this book, which came out that same summer. A friend of mine gave it to me and usually I hate when people give me books because I want to go to the bookstore and choose them myself. So it was therefore several weeks until I opened it and I thought it was breathtaking and so deeply original with its mixture between social realism and horror. That was how it started.
TLG: You were so impressed and moved by the book that you had to make it into a film?
TA: I usually feel that if you have a very strong experience reading a book you shouldn't do a film of the book because you don't have the same possibilities as a writer, especially when it's this complicated, visually, to make. The fantastical parts in this book, such as the images of it, it is usually better to let the book be but I thought it was some kind of exception. I had some similar experiences when I was going to school, when I was 12 or 14 years old so I thought, this [the coming of age of Oscar, bullying, schooling, adolescence] I know everything about, so I want to give it a try.
TLG: How do you feel about the success of the film, the 42 awards worldwide and critical acclaim?
TA: They all mean something to me but a few weeks ago a man, in his seventies came up to me and he said 'I went to see your film and when I saw it I remembered my own childhood. The kids in school they nearly killed me because they were so violent to me and I haven't been able to talk to anybody about this for sixty years and suddenly I saw this film and I was crying for two weeks'. It was so fantastic and he was very grateful for the film and that kind of feedback is the strongest feedback you could ever get even though all the prizes at all the festivals are very fine things but such stories are the strongest.
TLG: You've said that the book, and the film are Dickensian with strong shades of light and dark.
TA: Yes, thats true. The film suggests that love is possible and everybody has a choice and the one character that does not have a choice is the vampire [Eli] because she has to kill to survive. I would say that the brighter side of this dark story is that yes you can choose love, just turn your head, it's possible. Even in the darkest times you can still choose love.
Yet one of my aims as a filmmaker is not to simplify life but to complicate it. If I go to a movie and things are more complicated at the end, I love that.
TLG: The film has a distinctive look, can you tell us about it?
TA: There is a lot of CGI in the film, I think there are over 70 CGI shots but they're very sensitively handled. Usually when filmmakers use CGI they turn the volume up to 10 and squeeze everything out of it, which I think makes it uninteresting. For instance, we changed the proportions of Eli's face in some images and its just 10% here and there. It makes for a creepy feeling and you really can't pinpoint it what has happened to her and it works, it gives you the creeps. There are lots of such CGI effects in the film.
TLG: With regard to your two young leading actors, how did you cast them and will 'Let the Right One In' launch their acting careers, in your opinion?
TA: We don't have professional children actors in Sweden so we had to do open castings. For this project we had the opportunity to do this for a long time, we were testing children all over Sweden for twelve months. Usually children who are too interested in being movie stars, those are the ones you shouldn't cast. These were two very quiet and intelligent children, who ask a lot of questions. I really like when actors, especially kids, ask a lot of questions.
I don't know what will happen them in the future I hope that they will find something else to do because acting, or film acting, is not something you would suggest a child to choose as a profession.
TLG: What's next for you?
TA: Right now I'm in preparation for a play at the Royal National Theatre in Stockholm, which is going to open in September. It’s a new piece and we haven't decided on a name yet. I'm co-writing and directing it, as part of a comedy group called 'Killing Gänget'. We have been working for 17 years together. As it's for the National Theatre, it’s a very prestigious thing to do as I've never worked there before. I'm very much looking forward to that.
TLG: Are you also working on a new film?
TA: At the moment I'm reading a lot right now and talking to some international production companies but I'm not sure what the next project will be.
TLG: Given the success of 'Let the Right One In', I wouldn't be surprised if you're being given a lot of books to read now!
TA: Well, [laughing out loud] thank you.