Monday, January 31, 2011

"Let the Right One In": An Indie Film With Great Structure

Now I watch a lot of movies. And I will periodically list some movies that I think make a great use of structure -- and a lot of these will hardly be the formulaic Hollywood movies that beginning screenwriters say they don't want to write, and therefore they avoid adding important structural elements to their scripts -- which is wrong!


This is a wonderful Swedish "horror" film (although it's neither suspenseful nor scary in the least) that does a great job of setting up what the adolescent main character, Oskar's, flaw is: weakness. He then meets his motivating/mentoring character, a young vampire named Eli. It's a love story, which is the motivating factor in helping Oskar get over his flaw. As Eli gives him more confidence through their interaction, Oskar stands up to his bullies. And as I teach in my story structure class (find out more at, it's important to make the main character and the motivating character's relationship symbiotic. Oskar also helps Eli, who is a lonely misfit. In other words, she needs him as much as he needs her.

Even at the end of the film when there is the necessary "dynamic estrangement" (note: this is a term I learned during my two-year-stint at Writer's Boot Camp, a school that I recommend for those of you who want to take your professional training one step further), when Eli and Oskar become separated, and then Oskar reverts to his "fatal flaw" during the final confrontation when he is almost killed by the bullies and Eli ultimately saves him, I wasn't bothered. I say this, because it is often an important rule to make your main character dynamic, meaning that she should not be passive, especially during the last "battle" at the end of the film. It is at this time that many screenwriting sages, the likes of Christopher Vogel, teach that it's time for the "hero" to stand up and overcome her flaw, often through a hand-on-hand fight with her antagonist. But, for some reason, with "Let the Right One In" it worked for this rule to be broken. Perhaps this was because this film was ultimately a misfit love story, and that Oskar was in a sense "sacrificing" himself when he thought he has lost his love.

I'll have to think about it. Get back to you on that!

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