Film scores

Soundtrack review: Let the right one in (Johan Soderquist – 2008)

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“Let the right one in” is a 2008 Swedish romance horror movie about a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a vampire child in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm, in the early 1980s. Both the novel that inspired it and the movie tone down the violence and horror elements and focus on the bond that forms between the two characters. Johan Soderquist wrote the score and he’s a composer I always look out for.

The opening of the score drops a dark veil around me as it sets the tone for the entire album. I almost have the physical sensation of seeing the world around me being stripped of its colour and turn pale, almost misty. It’s a different vision, a world in which I could very easily recognise the one thing that matters. The special filter that the composer applies to the world lets me see only what I have been searching for for a long time.

The theme for “Eli and Oscar”, the two main characters of the story, is quiet and beautiful. It’s the perfect orchestral blend of mature and innocent; this cue doesn’t make me think of two teenagers but of two ageless souls that will keep recognising each other through time and space. The minimalistic tone brings to mind the silence and peacefulness of a bond and love you know will transcend anything and everything. There’s nothing dramatic  or aggressive about it; it’s simply beautiful.

“Eli’s theme” is even more stunning; it starts with the feeling of a quiet rain that falls at its own pace on a day where it shouldn’t have come. The turmoil of emotions in this cue show a girl who’s hiding in her warm core the most beautiful and misunderstood soul, a soul that’s looking for its other half. This theme shows me the contrast between an almost impenetrable outside that tries not to stand out too much and an inside that’s burning with love and passion. Once the right one comes along the feelings become unrestrained and pour endlessly around him.

This score is fascinating because, just like the story of these two souls which are discovering love, it weaves together threads of warm and innocent love with moments of shiver inducing horror. Just like the romantic themes the horror pieces are quiet but so intense that they transform the music into a skewer that stabs me right in the heart and turns my spine into ice.

Johan Soderquist doesn’t use a lot of instruments; he strips his music of everything that is unnecessary and leaves the souls of the two characters barren for us to see. His music creates a world for just the two of them as if they were endlessly trapped in a snow globe. A cue like “The father” makes me think of a dance in the virgin snow, a dance oblivious of the outside world.

The scary and truly dark moments are just a metaphor for the sacrifices the two souls make for each other and for the lengths they would go to to protect the other one. Murdering strangers so that Eli could have a way to feed and killing the bullies that were threatening Oscar’s life are there to show that true love is about doing whatever it takes to make the other one whole no matter where you take those pieces from.

The piano in “Then we are together” is sublime. It’s one of those nothing else matter moments when the world disappears and just the two of them remain in a suspended reality; it’s the kind of cue that makes me think of an indestructible thread that ties two souls, a thread that unites them forever. The key strokes are the shivers that travel along that thread and move both of them and makes their hearts tremble in the same time.

Love and pain go hand in hand in this score. I can almost see Eli bleeding from time to time and I have in mind the moment when Oscar says they should become related by blood and Eli runs away so she wouldn’t kill him with her blood thirst. The two of them are alike in their desires and the need to let them be satisfied from time to time.

This is a story about finding and recognising the one no matter in what shape he or she comes; it’s a story about love and about accepting the other one for who he or she really is regardless of the conventions of the outside world. It’s a story about unconditional love. Let the right one in and never let him out…

Cue rating: 92 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 46
Album excellence: 71%
Highlights:
The Arrival
Eli and Oscar
Eli’s Theme
The Slaughter
Oscar in Love
Oscar Strikes Back
The Father
Virginia Is Bitten
Then We Are Together
Eli Bleeds
Related by Blood
Going Home
Let the Right One In

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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