Most of the time, a book made into a film does not fall from the grace of its original literary merit and retains its sovereignty as a textual master over the cinematic adaptation. At least, that’s what I think. It’s really a win-win situation in which both a book and a novel have their own charms with the appropriate bells and whistles. Alas, that’s not the case of Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Not an Iota. The book betrayed my anticipation of passing over to the minds of the characters for empathy and disappointed me with its bleak and dreary narrative. It’s like meeting your hero and ending up with a cold, contemptuous shoulder that cut off the thinnest and the highest note of the mind’s strings.
The textual version of the Boy and the Vampire named Oskar and Eli, respectively, were hardly pathetic, not to mention likable, roaming the dark alleys of Scandinavian Dystopia plastered with pornography in all sorts of perversion. IT’s there, it’s here, it’s all over everywhere on the pages like pits pull of filth. The matter-of-fact accounts of child molestation defenestrated my mental equilibrium into catatonia, and I recoiled in diabolic horror in the course of wading through the chapters so as just to get them over with in a heartbeat. Any such disgrace of the subject matter could have been reconciled with a felicity of expressions and literary craftsmanship that would have at least rendered it bearable to read and excusable to merit its genre. Yet, the book continued to go against the grain to grant my wish for even teeny tiny weeny bit of pleasure of reading it – to the end. It all seemed to me that the catastrophe was due to the English translation of the original Swedish version of the book by an anonymous translator trying either too hard or too little to articulate the sentiments that could only be rendered accessible in the author’s mother tongue. The result was an ineffective simulation of a style of writing supposedly associated with Stephen King.
Maybe it’s just me having a difficulty in appreciating the mind of the Swedish writer whom Stephen King generously hailed as one of the top writers of the horror fiction genre. Maybe my adultescent anticipation for the book was precipitately induced by the visual sensation from its film version, which is far better than its textual master in terms of the portrayal of the characters and the interpretation of their minds, capturing the subdued but powerful moments of revelation intelligently played out by Director Matt Reeves, who seems to understand the gist of the book as though it were written by him. Be that as it may, the book was not meant for someone whose heartstrings were prone to be broken if they were to be pulled out perforce. For the book still rings hollow in the valley of bleakness and shrieks in the alley of darkness and nothing more.
Love is really everything except what it is. In the moments of violent delights of the ecstasy, it creates synchronicity of the two minds by surrendering to each other and becomes inseparable from one another. Whether it is erotic or agapeic, everyone regardless of any biological, social, or existential plane deserves this sweet surrender of love. George Sand, the French novelist whose love story with Frederic Chopin is better than a fiction, affirms: “Everyone deserves to love and be loved.” That is everyone, even if that one is a vampire or a misfit.
“Let Me In” directed by Matt Reeves is a story about this love based upon his Shakespearean interpretation of ‘Love”. It is about friendship that develops into love because the word “Friend” is derived from a Proto-Germanic word “fraendi,” meaning “lover.” As it is a recurring theme of William Shakespeare’s plays, the meaning of friend and love is interchangeably conveyed on screen by the cinematographic recounting of the fateful love in the veneer of friendship between the two main characters, Owen and Abby, who are bound by loneliness and heartaches. In fact, the story of these two very young characters will conjure up the very young figures of lovelorn Romeo and Juliet by the side of the screen lurking in the corner eager to deliver their legacy of love that means to be forever beyond River of Styx. The only difference is that Abby, who is a vampire, never tells her love, but her concealment feeds on her crimson lips by devouring other people’s lives. She only sees Owen, the sensitive boy with a beautiful heart, for none other than a woman’s reason. Abby pines in thought, and with a red and gray melancholy, she watches Owen like Patience on a tree, smiling at grief for what she is.
There is an original Swedish version of this selfsame film, but this Reeves’ version is more intelligently rendered and is hauntingly riveting with its surrealistic imagery and the stellar performance of the cast beautifully alloyed in the alluring alchemy of cinematography. It is an innovative synthesis of artistic European neo-realism and a burst of the American no-nonsense realistic pep in the straightforward screenplay. This is a kind of film that makes you walk on the borderline of fantasy and reality, revolt and conformity, fear and courage, and doubt and trust, all of which will make you long for everything that love can come by. Forget Fear. This film is at its most compelling when you follow it with your open mind and let it in.
Life reminds me of a Baroque fugue; it begins with the exposition of a short melody, then develops into busy melodies and finally reaches a dramatic final entry in tonic. It is a continuous surrendering of the old and a trust in new beginnings with lots of in-between episodes, intricately interwoven by multiple strands of occasional chances called “luck,” failed expectations, and grace of hopes that creates a curiously riveting toccata. In this film by Kore-eda, Ryota’s life is a ballad of a soft troubadour, who wants to sing a happy song with his fractured but beautiful family.
Ryota, once a promising novelist, now a divorced middle-aged struggling writer, makes a living as a part-time private detective under the pretext of enriching his writer’s imaginativeness for his next best oeuvre. He loves his ex-wife and his son dearly, so he always hangs around them surreptitiously. But he does not understand that how he feels about them is unrequited because he is not in their lives any longer. In fact, Ryota is even unsure of himself, of his reason for writing, and of what he wants to become amid his dwindling writing career and growing distance from his already fractured family. There is a sense of drift in his life, that feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and disappointments, all fragmented in the detritus of broken wishes, unpaid dues, and lost dreams. He has nonetheless a heart of gold, and his humor is his saving grace that helps him get going. Ryota’s life has been in the doldrums for so long that he forgets he has to move forward to get out of the stasis binding him in the longing for bygone days. A stream of pathos oozes out to see Ryota thinking, ‘Who would have known my life would turn out like this?’
Director Kore-eda uses the storm, more accurately a typhoon, as a medium to free Ryota from the memories of the past, from the obsession of his past, in order to give him a new meaning of life, will to meaning. Kore-eda does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing the innermost feelings of the characters without elaborate lines or super-abudance of emotions throughout the scenes. It is a Japanese film, but the sentiments and judgments of the characters are rendered communicative to the hearts of the universal audience.
Great Philosopher Spinoza advised the mankind of how to endure suffering in days of yore: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” The essence of this suprameaning of emotional suffering, which Spinoza also poetically termed Amore Feti (Love of Fate), is to endure what you can’t change but to accept it as it is, for there is a meaning to it in the dark night of the soul. In the terrible ordeal of the tormented soul, one has two choices to make: to yield to the force of deception calling for total abandonment of hope or to force oneself to turn to the voice of hope to sustain strength of the heart. The sovereignty of humanness is manifested by this holy office of selecting the spiritual choice in the darkest hour of the soul in the deepest valley of the abyss. “Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The story of Erika Jacoby”, a short documentary produced by Harvard Westlake-School, is one such tale of a survivor from the atrocity of moral and physical turpitude as a young child at Auschwitz during World War II.
A curious alchemy of illustrative animation and neorealist documentary delivers a momentum of pathos without elaborately scripted lines or special effects in the most powerfully elliptical way, which adds to the authority of truth that the story itself owns. Ms. Jacoby’s straightforward narration without a prolix litany of her woeful past is felt through the heart of the viewer, and it communicates to the mind of the viewer her smothered traumatic experience at Auschwitz, where she had to witness the death of her beloved and the enormity of evil reincarnate in the Nazis’ mass killing of the Jews and the violence against humanity through the eyes of a young girl. Accordingly, the film is seen in the perspective of a young child whose innocence betrays ingenuousness of the story and thus delivers the profoundness of such experience that sublimates it into the highest form of Art in the context of regarding Da Vinci’s aphorism of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
This short documentary has chimed the hearts of thousands, including those judges at the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the most highly regarded film festival (note that it’s not an “award” ceremony where only gowns and jewelry and tuxedos and fake smiles are visible.) in the world. It will be shown at the American Pavilion at Cannes this month as part of a series on young, emerging film makers, one of whom includes Ian Kim, who is son of Mr. Harry Kim, a corporate lawyer at a law firm I am privileged to work. The creators of this documentary will appear on stage at Cannes, ergo it will be a festivity of creation, a festivity of humanity. Above all, the fruit of this film is a triumph of human will that rose above the carnage of war and the degradation of dignity and a manifestation of meaning of life, will to meaning, freedom of will as also corroborated by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, founder of Logotheraphy and also a survivor of five concentration camps during World War II. Ms. Jacoby shows us what it means to have hope as long as she lives. Dum Spiro, Spero. This documentary will strike the highest notes of your heartstrings.