Låt den rätte komma in

When I saw the movie, I didn’t know there was a book. I think the movie just kind of showed up one day and moved into my Netflix queue. All very normal. Who knew? Then, I watched it. I was so amazed by the originality and atmosphere and everything of the movie that when someone mentioned, “The book is better,” I knew I had to read that too. However, it sat on my stack unread. In fact, I almost gave it away as a present since it seemed a shame to waste a brand new book like that if I wasn’t going to read it.

Then, I’m not sure why, but I picked it up. And, devoured it. But, the whole time I kept thinking to myself, “I wish I’d read the book first.” The pacing seemed really slow to me as I was reading it. I felt that had to be because I’d seen the movie and so I wasn’t discovering the story for the first time. It had to be something, because it was a wonderful story to read.

Well, maybe the word “wonderful” isn’t right, is it? It’s a bleak affair, after all. The pacing is part of the atmosphere. Everyone is struggling to find love in spite of their dysfunctions in a world which indifferently exists around them. I’d say hostile, but that’s not really it. Everyone is doing what they can to survive as wounded individuals, and sometimes that means hurting other people. But, it’s not really out of malice, even the bullies are really not so much vicious as much as indifferently cruel because they are living. And, there’s really no good people, per se, as much as everyone being flawed in such a way that it’s all ultimately ambiguous. And, in the cold and wintery dark, isn’t that idea the real horror? To be alone is to die, but to be around others is to get hurt. To live is to decide to continue hurting and being hurt, and to refuse this is to refuse to go on living. And, that struggle is one that strangles the heart in strange ways, unless you can find the right one that balances out that struggle for a while. So, try to let the right one in.

(It’s an odd coincidence, which will only make sense to those having read the book, that I was proofreading Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente as I was reading the book. After you finish the book, go and read through this Liber to see why this stuck me as synchronicity.)

Then I finished with the story and watched the movie again. As I watched the movie, I realized how very different the two were from each other. The pacing of the movie really was strikingly fast, and after the book the movie is almost dizzying. The movie literally zooms from the start to somewhere in the middle of the book across a couple of minutes. I was really shocked at how much wasn’t there from the book that I had to reassure myself that, in fact, the author was also the writer of the screenplay. Now, that makes it very interesting to think about what got left out, by the author’s own hand; in collaboration, to be sure, but still. Re-watching the movie, I realized there were things that couldn’t have made sense the first time, things that must have seemed odd or wrong about the plot. The movie could have been so very much creepier and scarier. But, it also turned the story from one of many individuals trying for survival, trying to live in a indifferently hostile world, into more of a love story.

In fact so much was left out, that, given what was left unexplored on screen the first time, I’m holding out a bit of hope now that the Americanized remake will actually be truer to the book. Faint hope to be sure, if I’m relying on American cinema to outdo a European film for awesome moody dread and willingness to go uncomfortable places, without turning to shlock and satire.

Of course, I’m reminded of anything by Bergman, but that’s too easy. Like in Cyrano de Bergerac, no one really gets what they want in the end. Like the end of The Princess Bride, it’s really not clear how much time there’s left for those riding off into the sunset. And, as I think about this I’m strongly reminded of my experience of The Silence of the Lambs, because of the realization that instead of any of what would normally be the creepiest stuff, the violence and gore and so on, what really was creepy was the psychological, existential horror that went on in the exchange between the main characters.

While reading the book, there were two places where it seemed to me the translator’s choices stuck out in odd ways, and there was one point past the half way point in the story where I had a feeling that the style of storytelling had abruptly changed. But, all in all the writing and translation seemed to carry me along and into the narrative without making themselves obvious, dissolving into a seamless experience. Nothing here like a tour de force of language, but well suited to the story and did well to maintain my immersion and momentum through to the end.

Now I’m flummoxed over whether I’d rather have read the book first or not. I actually like the movie a lot less now than I did before I read the book. The book is a much richer tapestry and much creepier and much more compelling. I can only, in the end, recommend both, and highly, even in spite of my confusion. They’re such different creatures, the movie and the book, that they both almost live unlives of their own. Both manage to survive, to find a way through the dark; both manage to come out in the end. At least, for a while.

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist; Ebba Segerberg, translator
St. Martin’s Griffin
October, 2008
Paperback, 480, pages
ISBN: 0312355297 (ISBN13: 9780312355296)

Let The Right One In [DVD]; Tomas Alfredson, director; John Ajvide Lindqvist, writer; Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Released March 10, 2009
114 minutes

Originally posted over on my personal blog at Låt den rätte komma in.

Third Time is the Charm

I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut, but I can no longer let certain things go by without comment. I am quite sure I will offend some of the True Faithful, but that cannot be helped.

I am here today to speak aloud these words: J K Rowling is wrong. In fact, not only is she wrong about two things she thinks that she got wrong, but actually got right; Rowling is also wrong about something she thinks she got right, but actually got completely wrong.

Many would have you believe that the wrongs J K Rowling has unleashed on the world are something along the lines of an inappropriately out of the closet Dumbledore, the traumatic death of Dumbledore (for entirely unrelated reasons to his homosexuality), rampant incipient Satanism and Witchcraft, and any number of those sorts of things. But, no. I’m fine will all that, as should you be as well. I’m talking about more important issues here!

Three strikes and you’re out, right? You know that thing where you write something the first time and then try to re-write it but nothing is better than the first thing you wrote, only now you’ve lost that because of your subsequent changes? Yeah. That. Someone needs to take the pen out of J K Rowling’s hand. She’s drunk and should go home. Let me demonstrate:

The First Wrong of J K Rowling

Oh, so many moons ago, I read that J K Rowling no longer liked the opening to the first book. I can’t quite just now find a reference. But, what I remember is that she wished she had re-written the opening of the first book to be more obvious in genre setting and quicker into the story, instead of the way it appears in print.

She is wrong.

The opening is delightful in how it starts out normal and slowly the increasing number of owls reveals to the reader and the character of Mr Dursley just how abnormal the world really is. I know that there is advice out there, I forget from whom, about making clear in the very first sentence what genre one is in, but I absolutely adore the way normality melts away in the opening of the first book. Moreover, we get to be present at the very moment when Mr Dursley’s sanity dissolves and he becomes unhinged. And, I will abide no loose talk about changing that feature.

The Second Wrong of J K Rowling

Recently, J K Rowling has publicly stated that Harry and Hermione should have gotten together, and she regretted that they didn’t. This is an idea which should be killed in its crib … but, um, successfully this time.

She is wrong.

First off, even if Hermione wanted to end up with Harry at any point, there is no way that Hermione would have stabbed her friend Ginny in the back like that. In order to double-cross Ginny like that Hermione would have to become a selfish narcissist instead of who she was, and that would have been against her very character, and if allowed would have been the beginning of the end for everyone, because without a good-at-heart Hermione everything would have fallen apart and fizzled into infinite darkness under the real Dark Lord.

But, I’d argue that the fact that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together is part of what helped Harry not turn into his father, and merely repeat the same story as the previous generation acted out. And, all the other characters would have fallen into enacting the same systemic failures demonstrated in the flashbacks and revelations about how completely shitty the Marauders really were to everyone else. Ginny saved Harry, not the other way around; because it was in Harry’s relationship with Ginny that he became a fully functioning and feeling adult; and it was always in Hermione’s hands how this entire story unfolded.

You think I’m overstating that? Let me put it this way: Harry had absolutely no apparent talent of his own until he discovered he was a natural at Quidditch. And, there is no way that Harry would have ever been discovered and joined the team if Hermione hadn’t used a fully functional and useful spell to repair Harry’s glasses in the very first book so Harry could actually see anything at all.

And, there’s no way Hermoine would have ended up with someone with a complete absence of actual magical aptitude … um, okay, at least Ron could play chess and throw gnomes like nobody’s business! And, red hair! They made beautiful babies, so shut up!

In fact, I bet, by the end, Hermione full and well realized that without the Horcrux in his head, Harry Potter was nothing more than a magically inept, whiney rich jock who liked to beat up on goth kids. There’s no way she would have gone for someone like that … well, you know, after she learned her lesson from how it didn’t work out with Victor Krum, anyway.

The Third Wrong of J K Rowling

J K Rowling lost the plot in the end. Yes, the entire end of the series was screwed up. Harry was no hero, for reasons I think I’ve already detailed. So, the only other kid left, and someone mentioned specifically in the books as fulfilling the same prophecy as Harry supposedly did: Neville Longbottom.

Rowling would have you believe that Harry was the hero and saved the day after coming back to life, a pathetic attempt to twist the actual truth and instead turn Harry into a risen Christ figure.

She is wrong.

In fact, without the stolen power of the Horcrux in his head and the overly patient coddling of whiz kid Hermione and the army of people around him doing all the actual work, Harry Potter would have been nothing better than how Neville Longbottom is portrayed throughout most of the series. But even still, the truth will out. You cannot deny that Neville Longbottom steps up, grows a pair, and stands up to Voldemort, and if he had half as much preparation as Harry did there’s no telling what he could have done. Probably have sealed things up behind the scenes of book three while Harry was busy being freaked out about what turns out to be his escaped petting zoo godfather.

In fact, even still, Harry died. That Harry died killed Voldemort’s horcrux in his head and left both Voldemort and Harry relatively powerless, there’s sympathy and contagion between these two that people only vaguely realize, after all. As the inaccurate Rowling version of events unfolded, unless Voldemort went completely off the rails and challenged Harry to a Quidditch match … (Hey, dumber things have been known to happen, people!) there really was no longer any chance for Voldemort at all, really just a matter of time, if he didn’t simply die at that moment the last Horcrux was broken, by Voldemort killing Harry, who is merely a functional and folkloric double of himself. And Harry should have stayed dead, or transformed into the Dark Lord he was always incipiently to become, which would have left Neville Longbottom to fulfill his destiny as the person referenced in the prophecy as the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, i.e., to kill Zombie Harry, back from the dead to assume his rightful rôle in the succession scheme of evil! And, in a beautiful Delphic-style twist, the assumption that the Dark Lord mentioned in the prophecy refers to Voldemort is simply a mistake only revealed in hindsight: the one who lives is Neville and the Dark Lord is actually what snivelly rich jock Harry of the future cycle of the generational system would become! And, there was some guy named Voldemort who died too, but no one really remembers what he had to do with anything.

And, shit, people, just look at pictures of Neville nowadays and just try to tell me that guy doesn’t look like a real Big Goddamned Hero who pretty much towers over Harry, who went off to become some kind of Auror, like, pshaw, whatever, prance around like a naked pony on stage, and write Beat poetry.

Originally posted over on my personal blog at Third Time is the Charm.

Who Goes There?

Fantastic novella Who Goes There? by John W Campbell is, of course, the inspiration for The Thing movies, including the 1953 The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s masterpiece rendition, and a re-remake that I’ve not seen. For some reason, the ebook version I read is no longer available, perhaps there were rights issues; but it can be found still in an edition with an introduction and screen treatment by William F Nolan, which I didn’t have in my edition, so I mention that only in passing.

As great as Carpenter’s rendition was at fulfilling the story as written better than the older movie, there’s still elements that were not brought fully to screen. So, even having seen both the previous movies several times, and Carpenter’s an untold number of times, if I’m honest, there was still a novelty to reading the original story that revealed a whole new dimension in the narrative to explore. There were places where the story shows its age, but it was still a damned fine experience of creep and paranoia. For example, the initial character descriptions are pretty stock manly men for heroes and degraded manliness for those not heroes. Another example is that the absolute end was a bit of stale period B-movie coda that wasn’t quite as great as the rest. But it is, ultimately, more than just what it was.

I made 12 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Who Goes There?

Rogue One

I saw a Rifftrax tweet about how A Star Wars Story: Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, &al., was on Netflix (for which they have a riff available). I’d been waiting for The Defenders in August to renew my subscription, but decided to do that early, for less than the cost of buying the movie on disc or download, and watched Rogue One belatedly but finally.

Aaaaaand … Holy crap, y’all. I loved it. This movie is a love letter by a soldier on the front sent home from the final battle but lost in the mail to only arrive decades later to fill for a brief moment a still heartbroken empty absence.

I admit it: I cried. A lot. This and the previous A Force Awakens really do it for me on a deep, probably psychologically significant, Hephaestus-archetype level. I felt this movie coursing in my blood like a jolt of caffeine and rattling my bones like the crack of a compound fracture.

I sometimes forget how much I am a child who was weaned on Star Wars. Without doubt I saw A New Hope in the cinema more times than any other movie (I lost count decades ago of times seeing the first movie in a cinema after around 27), and overall have seen the Star Wars saga together more than any others in total.

The movie is obviously a love letter to the Star Wars saga, especially A New Hope. There’s a tender and joyful use of momentary and interwoven callbacks without going overboard. Rogue One is also a stirring homage to Pacific theatre war movies and Chinese wuxia, in the way that the saga were also homages, the trilogy to Saturday morning serials and Akira Kurosawa, the sequels to teen dramas, like A Rebel Without A Cause.

The movie is also a visual love letter to the use of light and shadow, and especially the transition from shadow to light, a constant and stunning use of light as a visual metaphor for hope. There were many times I found myself wowed by this central visual cue throughout.

The story is convincing and solid, but moreover, not only a worthy installment in the Star Wars saga, I dare say that Rogue One transcends the inspiration. This film is full of new and novel takes on the source saga, builds on and expands the mythos in significant and welcome ways, and steadily climbs to crescendo with a searingly fantastic finale.

As an aside, I desperately needed a unicorn chaser to soothe my heartache after the end of this movie and watched a couple episodes of The Worst Witch (2017), and was reminded that Rogue One star Felicity Jones played Ethel Hallow in series one of the earlier rendition of The Worst Witch (1998) and the sequel Weirdsister College.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Rogue One