Catching Up With... Tomas Alfredson

Movies Features Tomas Alfredson
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Paste: They invented light. The young actors were remarkable. That unsentimental quality was refreshing. In so much American media, kids of a certain age only get played two ways: for their presumed innocence, or as precocious sex objects. We sentimentalize childhood only to commodify it. Your approach, not milking it, means that in the end the viewer gets hit hard emotionally, but in a very sweet way. Where did you find those kids?

Alfredson: Open castings throughout Sweden. It took nearly a year to find them. This story is very unsexualized. There is no sex in the film. It is very soothing not to have the sexual part of being a teenager. This is pure innocent young love. And that thing is also a big conflict for the vampire, because the vampire has stopped growing before he or she has become mature. That’s an important thing for Eli, the vampire, to maintain that innocent love. So she asks Oskar, or he asks him - because not everyone has noticed that Eli is a boy, a castrated boy. I don’t know if you made that conclusion but it’s suggested a couple of times in the film.

Paste: There is an ambiguity, but I didn’t quite put it all together.

Alfredson: It’s just suggested. There is a very short image of his genitals, or her genitals, that you could interpret was a castrated boy.

Paste: What were you looking for in the actors?

Alfredson: They should be mirrors for each other. And they had a strange kind of maturity. They are like two very old people. They were just 12 when we shot. Lina is like an old lady for me, like 80 years old. She could look through you. She is a reincarnation of somebody. And when we shot it I didn’t want them to read the story so each and every day they got new papers from the script… I read it aloud for them, so they didn’t have this reading style of actor. After awhile they started trying to make me say what it was all about. They put the screen together in their heads during the shooting process. They’re really, really intelligent people, those two.

Paste: Have they continued acting?

Alfredson: No. I want them not to be showbiz kids,. We’ve kept them out from the media. They have made not a single interview so far.

Paste: What do you think about the American remake that has been announced?

Alfredson: It’s heartbreaking when you have worked on something for several years and put a lot of love into it and have someone else use the same material. At the same time, they make Hamlet all the time. But I cannot say that this is mine. They have the book and they are going to do a re-adaptation from the book, and not remaking they film. Maybe these feelings disappear after awhile. Maybe this guy is very talented and has unique ideas?

Paste: He shot Cloverfield, which was a dud. YouTube horror. But that’s my knee-jerk reaction. Were you also disappointed not to have the film put forward as Sweden’s entry for the foreign film Oscar?

Alfredson: We have had such big international success with this film, I think maybe we could have had a greater chance if they had the courage to choose us.

Paste: Were people surprised you directed this? You’re better known for comedy.

Alfredson: I suppose so, but at the same time I have for a Swede a slow style…

Paste: Congratulations on your Méliès d'Or award for best European fantastic film. How many prizes has the film won?

Alfredson: For this film, it’s like 15 or something.

Paste: Maybe you don’t need an Oscar!

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