Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eat Prey Love

Damn These Vampires - Mountain Goats (mp3)
Do the Vampire - Superdrag (mp3)

Love is predatory.

This isn’t always true, mind you. There’s plenty of gushy huggy Care Bear love out there between people who see one another with rainbow auras, emotional wells full of nothing but beauty and perfection and big red cartoon hearts dotting the i.

But sometimes, love is about predators finding their prey not through talons or teeth, but through the heart.

I saw the movie LET ME IN this weekend. It’s the American remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In (or, if you must, Låt den rätte komma in). American translations of respected foreign films almost always serve to remind us how polished and pathetic our glossy plastic notions of quality have become. In the case of LET ME IN, however, respect was paid, and changes were made wisely.

If you read the critics reviews, many share this opinion: truly great flick, but the only reason it was ever made is because Americans can’t/won’t read subtitles.

True, perhaps, but I saw a difference in the two films, and it was a significant difference.

In Right One, I saw a slightly different take on the love relationship between the two main characters. In Let Me In, I saw an intense exploration of the nature of predators, the nature of prey, and the interdependence of these sides. (Fair Warning: Plot points revealed below.)

Owen, the boy at the center of the story, is the ultimate prey. He is awkward and outcast and odd, and he is an emotional wreck from the pending divorce of his parents. He is, in numerous ways, the human equivalent of that wounded young antelope in the open field. The evil bullies at his school know it. The residents of his apartment complex know it. And his new 12-year-old neighbor Abby knows it.

The film is set in Los Alamos, NM, in the early ‘80s, the kind of perfect undertone for the film’s issues. As director Matt Reeves said:
“I started thinking that for this little boy, who is mercilessly bullied and has these dark fantasies of revenge, it would be very confusing to be growing up at a time when Reagan is telling us that evil is something outside of us, and Americans are fundamentally good.”
And to set this up in the birthplace of the nuclear bomb. Nice.
“Los Alamos has the highest IQ per capita and the highest number of churches per capita, because of all the scientific research that is going on there, so it’s this grappling of conscience.”

From the beginning, Abby is preying on Owen. I didn’t see this in the Swedish version. It might have been clear, but I somehow missed it. I misinterpreted her aims in the Swedish version as loneliness. But in the American version, as portrayed by the same girl who raises eyebrows in KICK-ASS, it’s all too clear she is seizing on an opportunity.

See, she looks 12, but she’s a seasoned pro of many lifetimes. And her “father,” the man who has been at her side since he himself was a pre-adolescent, is wearing down. He’s old, and he’s finally begun to lose his mind. This happens alot when you find yourself becoming a serial killer who drains blood to feed the love of your life who is forever stuck inside the body of a pre-adolescent girl even as you become this old pervert.

She knows her “father” will not last much longer, and she knows she needs a replacement. Owen is perfect, and she knows it before she even sits on the monkey bars of the apartment playground with him.

Later, Owen looks through pictures of Abby with her “father” as a boy. They are the same age in sepia-toned images. Instead of a beaten older man, he is a nerd with glasses and that unsightly birthmark swallowing his right cheek, the kind of mark that would render all but the most charismatic soul an outcast. Abby has been down this road many times. She is not new to seduction or to vulnerable outcast nerd boys.

In the Swedish movie, I guess the ending made me oddly, awkwardly happy. The poor boy had at least found love. But in the American version, Owen’s fate felt weighty, tragic, inevitable. He is prey. Period. The only drama is in determining which predator ultimately gains ownership of him.

Any movie that leaves me asking deep questions and troubled is a movie I consider a rare success in today’s bubblegum disposable entertainment world. It will be a while before I work my feeble mind around this one.


Billy Bob said...

Let us hope that the American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo translates to these shors as effectively. The trailer certainly looks very promising.

BeckEye said...

I'll have to check it out. I really enjoyed Let the Right One In.