‘Violence and the poetics of (un)heimlich space in Let the Right One In’
In this paper I will be considering how the opposition between the space of the house (as intimate space) and the outside (as universe), theorized in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, is undone in the film Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008) through their traversal by different forms of violence (Benjamin, Camus, Arendt, Zizek) and, in doing so, the film deterritorializes the (un)heimlich house/home as intimate space. One can identify a central chiastic thought structure on violence in the film: to fight school bullies will invite more violence; to invite a vampire into your home will bring fatal violence – inviting the vampire creates a friend and ally; fighting the bullies brings an end to violence. Notwithstanding the simplicity of the inversion in this chiasmus, it owes its feasibility to a cluster of other concepts, genres and discourses of literature, philosophy and film history that are put into question and impact on the viewer through the sustained ambiguity of the filmic image of the central figure: the child vampire ‘Eli’. I will argue that Eli is an example of both ‘the intolerable image’ and ‘the pensive image’, as described by Jacques Rancière in The Emancipated Spectator. The filming of the environs of the postmodernist functional ‘community housing’ in which the children, Oskar and Eli, live as neighbours, also achieves the status of this pensive image, recalling the dark obscure landscapes of the north in Gothic literature and hypostasizing the liminality of inner and outer ‘nature’, while the interior spaces of ‘box-like’ identical flats creates a sense of suffocating enclosure and anxiety that cage human/animal needs and desires. The paper will close by outlining how the affect peculiar to this film rests on accepting the sustained ambiguities of its images.