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London Film Festival: Let Me In stars and director Q&A

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The second big screening of the London Film Festival, Let Me In, concluded with an unannounced question-and-answer session with director Matt Reeves, producer Simon Oakes and young stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The latter arrived in a lime-green suit and neon pink shirt with matching Converse, making the poor lad only a mop of hair away from being confused for a walking slice of watermelon.

The second big screening of the London Film Festival, Let Me In, concluded with an unannounced question-and-answer session with director Matt Reeves, producer Simon Oakes and young stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The latter arrived in a lime-green suit and neon pink shirt with matching Converse, making the poor lad only a mop of hair away from being confused for a walking slice of watermelon. {{page_break}}

Let Me In is based on Let The Right One In, an original novel and then film written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, telling the story of a bullied and socially isolated boy who forms an intensely close bond with a young (looking) vampire girl living in the flat next door with her elderly caretaker. As she helps the boy to stand up for himself at school, the murders her caretaker undertakes to satiate their blood-thirst quickly begins to attract police attention.

The first question was put to director Matt Reeves and predictably concerned what drew him to the material and why he was interested in remaking such a critically acclaimed original. He stated that when first approached he had little interest in the project, not feeling that a remake would inspire his passions in the way an original story would. Yet after reading the book and watching the film, he found himself relating to the story through his own experiences of being bullied during his school days. That this was the deciding factor in Reeves taking on the project is evident in the finished film: the scenes of Owen (Oskar in the Swedish version) being tortured by a gang of older aggressors are shot with the same unflinching eye as the original. As Reeves touched upon in a later question, these scenes are not graphically unpleasant, but use suggestion and implication to build up a sense of Owen's fear and shame at being subjected to the humiliating machinations of the lead bully's sadistic hatred.

The film is also notable as the first release under the banner of old British horror studio Hammer Films in over thirty years. When asked why Reeves's film in particular was chosen for that honour, producer Simon Oakes stated that the film put a distinctive spin on the vampire mythology which had been the preserve of many of the studio's classic successes, most notably the 1958 Dracula starring Christopher Lee. To the audience's delight, Oakes threw an offhand jibe at Twilight, whose interpretation was also deemed 'unique' in a sarcastic tone of voice. Although much of the seedy sexual undercurrent in Tomas Alfredson's original film is reduced in Let Me In to suggestion, the film does strongly hint that the relationship between Chloë Moretz' Abby and her old carer, whom she refers to only once as her father more out of obligation than honesty, may delve off-screen into more disturbing depths than simple parental love.

When asked directly about this, Reeves stated his belief that without a running time long enough to do justice to the subplot in the original novel, any overt mention of paedophilia would only go underdeveloped and distract audiences from the main story. His belief that he could stay faithful to that morally challenging side of the story through implication rather than visualisation is backed up by a number of small clues hidden throughout the film. This revisionist approach of using children to act out the traditional battles between the vampire and virginal prey modernises the myth to address modern concerns, while staying true to the heritage that Simon Oakes considered instrumental in making the film the first modern Hammer production.

The first two films of the London Film Festival have been notable for strong performances from child actors, with Ella Purnell, Charlie Rowe and Izzy Meikle-Small memorable in Never Let Me Go and now Chloë Grace Moretz (Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Boy in The Road) taking the starring roles in Let Me In. The pair portrayed less emotionally stunted versions of their Swedish counterparts, whose faces and voices seemed as frozen by their fractured psyches as the ground by the snow beneath their feet. This made the developing bond between them less ethereal and more a distorted version of a close young friendship, displayed with some subtlety the profundity of their reliance on one-another to endure lives offering them nothing beyond varying degrees of suffering. In real-life, the friendship between the actors was clear: while Reeves or Oakes were answering the audience's questions, the pair would often be quietly giggling and joking with each other in the background. McPhee stated that his contact with Moretz prior to filming had been limited to videochat and a day out bowling with some of the crew, but their evident friendship translated to a credible and moving relationship on-screen as well as on stage.

The most important question came near the end, when Reeves was asked about how a balance was maintained between staying faithful to the original text and creating a version of the story that was his own. Although he spoke of discouraging his cast and crew from watching the original, this was the area where his answer fell flat in comparison to what was evident from the film. As explained in Flixist's official review, the film feels uncomfortably familiar to anyone who has seen the Swedish original.

Reeves also spoke about some of his creative choices in suggesting the relationship between Owen and his parents, whose faces are never seen to create a sense of disassociation between them. This was a reference to Kar Wai Wong's In The Mood For Love, where the spouses of the main characters go similarly concealed to invoke the lack of love in the marriages.

The Q&A ended with yours truly throwing a question to Chloë Grace Moretz about whether she was primarily attracted to action roles, given how her characters in Let Me In and Kick-Ass have specialised in 'tearing people apart with wild abandon' - exact phrasing. In true PR speak (taught well, this padawan has been), she laughed and answered that she selected roles by how they'd allow her to 'expand her emotional range as a thirteen year old' – which surely can't be difficult, considering how my emotional range as a thirteeen year old didn't go far beyond raucous over-excitement running around the school playground, to humiliating shame at discovering the whole day had been spent wearing my jumper on back to front.

After half an hour of questions, mistress of ceremonies Sandra Hebron took the time to thank Reeves, Oakes, Moretz and McPhee for attending, all of whom left the stage to great applause. The film may have received mixed critical notices, but its stars put on an engaging and entertaining show to cap off an enjoyable second day of the Festival.

  • Head photograph from the Press Association (PA)

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Xander Markham
Xander MarkhamAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Living just outside London, I represent Flixist’s entire UK branch. My film obsession manifested itself during a childhood spent watching Bond movies, Italian Westerns and all things samurai. I... more + disclosures


 


 



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