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Giles Fraser: The real vampirism in society today

07 April 2009

There is currently a spate of dodgy vampire movies, from the teen flick Twilight to the ludicrously titled Lesbian Vampire Killers (which I have not seen, but I am still prepared to declare confidently that it is rubbish). But, in a league of its own, possibly one of the finest films I have seen for years is the Swedish art-house film, Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson and on general release from 10 April. It is a must-see for those with a strong constitution.

Based on the much more terrify­ing book by John Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a love story between two 12-year-old children, one of whom happens to be a vampire. This is an entirely secular vampire movie, which interprets vampirism more as an unfortunate biological condition, making no re­fer­ence whatsoever to the super­natural. There is no priest with a cross or any superstitious stuff about garlic.

Set in the freezing wastes of 1980s Sweden, up in the near-permanent dark of the Arctic Circle, the film depicts the bullied Oscar finding a tender and trusting relationship with the gamine and strangely vulnerable Eli (described in the book as having the face of Audrey Hepburn and the eyes of Samuel Beckett).

There is blood and gore aplenty, but what the vampire genre adds to the telling of a love story is a sense that neither Oscar nor Eli knows how the other functions biologically. They are fascinated and slightly scared by each other’s sexual identity. This is all very sensitively handled, and re­minded me of old-fashioned love stories between people who had little idea how the other gender actually functioned.

In sharp contrast to all of this, my 12-year-old daughter spent several of her evenings last week watching a TV series — targeted at her age-group — in which willies and boobs were everywhere. The premise of the series was that 90 per cent of children her age had experience of internet pornography; so it was far better to show them the real thing rather than some fantasy version. I generally agree with this approach, though it means that many children know as much as I know about sex before they become teenagers.

The real vampirism in our society is the way we have sexually exploited our children. The models on the catwalk or on our billboards have barely entered puberty, and yet they are held up for the sexual grati­fication of adults. It has come to some­thing when we can get better moral lessons on the intersection between love and growing up from a film about a blood-sucking mur­derer.

Canon Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney, in south London.

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