Movie News

The Northlander Sits Down With The Writer Of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN!

Published at: Oct. 23, 2008, 6:43 a.m. CST by Moriarty

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. It’s a real pleasure to present this interview by our semi-regular Swedish contributor, TheNorthlander. I’ve got to give him all credit on this one... he was the first person I heard talking about LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, back before the film was even finished. He was a fan of the book, and he’d been aware of the film during development, and he told me back then that it was going to be something special. Oh, how right he turned out to be. When he asked me recently if I’d want an interview with the screenwriter, who also is the author of the absolutely sensational novel that it’s based on, I had no idea he meant this sort of in-depth half-hour conversation. It’s great stuff, and on a film like this, it’s nice to be able to offer up coverage from a local perspective, and to talk to a writer who's poised for a new level of international attention in the next few years. Be warned, though... they discuss spoilers freely, for both the film and the book. So you may want to bookmark this until after you get a chance to see the film this weekend...

Hey guys, The Northlander here again. The other day I had a chance to sit down for a one on one with JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST, who wrote the novel LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is based on, and also the screenplay for the movie some of you have seen. By now you all know about it, or should anyway, it’s been praised all around on every film festival it’s been showing at since the premiere at the Gothenburg film festival last January here in Sweden. It’s also opening in the US now on Friday the 24th, so if it’s showing near you you should definetly check it out. When I walked into the Hotel Diplomat in Stockholm, I was greeted by John and the marketing executive from his publisher, Anne. I got out my voice recorder and a wrinkled piece of paper with my questions written out. The paper looked positively tortured with revisions, with way too many changes made with a pen over the printed out original. I gotta get me a new printer soon, I thought, as I took a seat. The Northlander: Okay, so let’s see here... John Ajvide Lindqvist: We’ve... revised the questionaire a bit. The Northlander: Yeah, this is the... tidied up version. JAL: Okay. The Northlander: Problems with the printer back home. JAL: Okay, I see. The Northlander: Yeah. So. Hello! JAL: Hi. The Northlander: I don’t know if you’re familiar with AIN’T IT COOL NEWS? JAL: I’ve seen it, I’ve seen the website. The Northlander: There are a lot of international readers there, that don’t know about... They know about the MOVIE. JAL: Mmm. The Northlander: It was shown at Fantastic Fest, where AICN has its headquarters, but I don’t think they know about the book so much. JAL: No. The Northlander: So can you tell them a bit about how the book got started and what background it has? JAL: Yeah. I finished this book seven years ago, and it got rejected by a helluva lot of publishers in Sweden, but it was published by Ordfront and it... You mean the background to the story, or to the book? The story? Well, it was my first novel, that became this completely unlikely and unexpected success here in Sweden and I just originally started from wanting to depict the place where I grew up – Blackeberg, a suburb to Stockholm, like I did back when I was a stand up comedian, I used to talk a lot about Blackeberg, or like a ficticious Blackeberg with rival gangs of senior citizens and well, what it was like there. And then I sort of returned there when I was going to write my first novel, to create a Blackeberg where I depicted it in such a way that it was going to be possible for a vampire to be living there. That a world where a vampire, a 12-year-old vampire, would be able to exist and I wanted to approach my subject completely seriously and absolutely reject all.. sort of ”romanticized” notions about vampires, or what we’ve seen earlier of vampires, and just concentrate on the question: If a child was stuck forever like, in a 12-year-old existence and had to walk around killing other people and drink their blood to live – what would that child’s existance really be like? If you disregard all the romanticized clichés. And then it struck me when I wrote the book that it would be an absolutely horrible existence. Miserable, gross and lonely. And hence, the way Eli is depicted. The Northlander: It’s obvious you’ve read some vampire litterature and looked at, explored the mythology a bit. Is that something you did even before, or was that research for this book? JAL: Well, I’m an old horror fan anyway. When I go to these... Fantastic Film Fest or I was at something called Fright Fest in London... Every person there knows more about the genre than I do, even though I make a living on it. But yeah I read some vampire novels and watched some vampire moves before I wrote this one. But that was... in horror, the vampire genre is the one that excites me the least, or I think is the least rewarding. I don’t read that, don’t watch that... Horror – absolutely – still. But to me it’s a bit... boring, when you walk into a bookstore and the horror section – it’s like half of them are about vampires. The Northlander: Yeah. JAL: And that... I’m sure there’s good stuff there, but I just can’t... or haven’t the energy to... deal with that. The Northlander: No, there’s a lot of that stuff that’s the same. JAL: Yeah you have these series...No. I just don’t. The Northlander: Was that also why you wanted to start writing horror, go from comedy to horror because you’re a horror fan? JAL: Yeah you could say that. I tried to write in other genres and also to write more conventional litterature, but it caused me to start struggling terribly with the language, and I tried to behave like... well ’How would a REAL author write? Hmmm... probably like this...’ and I made these heavy, long sentences and it was very concious of style and very bad. And it wasn’t until I kind of allowed myself to try and write a horror story, this genre that I actually know and really love... It took me many years, what was I? 32 or something. When I finally tried writing this genre, it was the first time that I was writing and discovered, ’Good lord – this is EASY! I can do this. I know what’s going to happen next. It’s just about writing the story as effectively as possible. Not worry about the language or that it’s supposed to be litterature. I’ll just try to throw in a story that’s as exciting as possible, and heartbreaking, and do it to the best of my ability. The Northlander: It feels like a lot in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is from you personally, have you taken a lot from your own childhood? JAL: Yeah I have, partially. What I say at the end of the book, that everything in it is true, just that it happened in another way, it’s exactly like that. That things of a similar meaning, and a life that was kind of like Oskar’s, was mine. And I probably longed for the same type of rescue as he gets and because of that it was very important to me with the movie that I would be allowed to write the screenplay myself. It’s possible, that I would ruin the story, that I wouldn’t be able to write a screenplay but then at least it would have been me and I wouldn’t have had to feel resentment towards another person or my life because he ruined my story. It’s particularly close to me, this book, out of all I’ve written. The Northlander: I heard a rumor... Now, tell me if this is true. JAL: Yeah... The Northlander: I heard a rumor a couple of years ago, somewhere, that if you look at the year book from Blackeberg in the early 80s, you’ll find a lot of these characters, with the same names even. JAL: Yeah that’s true. The last names are changed only. The Northlander: The book is very rich in detail, compared to the movie which is very, very economical. In a good way. JAL: Right. The Northlander: Are a lot of these locations still there today? JAL: Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. They are. Some, like this Chinese restaurant that these winos hang out, that’s not a Chinese restaurant anymore, it’s called Wok & Grill, but it’s still the same winos hanging there. They look exactly the same, it’s the same people. I was there a couple of years ago, you could see then – there’s Morgan, there’s Lacke, there’s (laughs).... Actually. And, other than that... Nah Blackeberg isn’t all that changed, they’ve built a few apartments here and there, but the centre looks the same, where I grew up, where Oskar lives, it still looks the same, The school... yeah no it’s pretty much the same. The Northlander: Was it difficult finding locations? Because the movie is shot up north a lot, right? JAL: Yeah. The Northlander: Was it difficult finding locations that would fit? JAL: I don’t know. I wasn’t involved in that. It was the film team’s job, hardly even Tomas [Alfredson, the director] job. That was up to the location scouts. The Northlander: But are you happy with the results? JAL: Locationwise? Yeah, I am. They found an area in Luleå [city in the north of Sweden] that’s built around the same time, at the time Blackeberg was built and the way it feels there... The images doesn’t look the same, but it feels the same way. So I think it’s absolutely, absolutely fine. The Northlander: Is there anything shot at the so to speak ’true’ locations in Blackeberg? JAL: Yeah there are a few scenes shot in Blackeberg. Thing is, that scene where Eli jumps Virginia and bites her, that’s shot in Blackeberg. But in the book it doesn’t happen in the same place, it doesn’t happen on the square. And the Chinese restaurant is, those scenes are also shot... the exteriors are shot in Blackeberg. It’s just the one. Only they built a Chinese restaurant for it to be at the right location. And the scene where... that great scene where Eli bites Jocke below that underpass, that’s shot in Råcksta which is right next to Blackeberg. Because they needed one of those tunnels where there’s a building behind it. Otherwise it was Luleå because they wanted to be sure to get snow and ice and proper cold. The Northlander: Now, you’re written comedy before this. JAL: Yeah. The Northlander: What’s more difficult? They say comedy is the hardest to write, but is it harder to make people laugh or is it harder to make people scared? JAL: Hmm... The difference between standing on stage of course is, that there you have an immediate response – they’re laughing, now it’s funny. Now things are going well. But when you write a book it’s... the book lives so long after the laughter and can continue to scare people all over the world if you’re lucky. But what’s harder? They’re so different... different techniques. I think it’s very fun when people say ’I read your book at night... I couldn’t fucking sleep. I couldn’t sleep so I just had to keep going so I read all night until it was over. Damn you’. That makes me happy. I want to hear that, that’s what it’s supposed to be like. That’s the equivalent to a big laughter and a long applause while on the stage doing stand up routine. But I think that, what I have with me from the stand up comedy and the years I’ve been doing that, writing material for others where it’s so directed towards – It’s [swedish comedian] Babben who’s going to say this, it’s [swedish comedian] Ulla Skoog who’s going to say that, it’s written for that particular person to say. That’s what it’s like, and it’s aimed to an audience. I can try mumbling it to myself as I write like I did in the beginning. This stylistic thing, it’s really you sit there satisfying yourself. I mean, this is aimed towards, I always imagine a reader one way or another like it’s someone listening to it who has to like it. You have to be able to read it out loud too. And in that case, that’s the stylistic considderation that now I sit reading the text out loud as I’m writing it to hear that it sounds good, because I know that I’ve got to read it out loud to my wife as well and then it’s got to be fucking good. Otherwise, she’ll say that it’s no good. That makes me sad and I’ve got to re-write it. So I make sure I’ll try to get it right from the beginning. The Northlander: Do you think it’s more important when you write horror that you have a good drama there? JAL: Oh hell yes. Otherwise you’re screwed. I mean, what? Otherwise it’s just... I think the most important thing with horror, where a lot of horror fails, or [the] horror doesn’t work, or that it dies for me is that I don’t care about the people that nasty things are happening to. I mean, you got like this little family, and then the genetically mutated grizzly comes along and he’s found a barrel of goo out in the forrest so he’s become like really dangerous and he kills the boy and the mom, the dad lives. If I think they’re pretty unpleasant and I don’t believe at all from how they talk to eachother that they would really care about one another, these people, and that they’re just walking around trying to look good in a movie – what the hell do I care what this bear does? While... it’s so, I mean... You can take a person that you don’t care about on film and just slowly cut him to pieces with a chainsaw and just [go]... ’Oh well...’ But if a person you’re really engaged in steps on a nail... That’s the most important thing, and that I think is where a whole lot of horror doesn’t work. That I really can’t care about these people. That guy, with the cut off T-shirt, he’s the hero. He’s the one who’s going to save them when they’re in that cabin out in the woods, from that psycho killer who’s stolen all the gardening tools and is planning to put them to some use. And I know that he’s the hero, and he’s so fucking bad and self absorbed, and I’m just thinking ’Take him first with the pick ax. Him first, so that I won’t have to see him again’, and you haven’t really succeeded then. The Northlander: You wrote this HANDLING THE UNDEAD [book] as well... JAL: Yeah. The Northlander: ...and it’s going to be film, or was it TV-series? JAL: Film. The Northlander: It’s film? JAL: No, the TV-series was a very early thing and it’s just been dragging with us. It was a long time ago we stopped believing it would be a TV-series. The Northlander: So how’s that working out? JAL: It’s good. I’ve finished a pretty late version of the screenplay. It looks very promising. It’s almost more tragic than the book so it’s... it’ll be good. The Northlander: Is there a director attatched as well? JAL: Yeah his name is Kristian Petri. The Northlander: Oh Kristian Petri? JAL: Yeah he’s directing. The Northlander: When will we see this? JAL: Kristian has a different film to shoot first. It was meant to start shooting this summer, but he has to shoot another film first so it’ll be shot spring 2010, the interiors, and the exteriors summer 2010. The Northlander: Is that for [production company] EFTI as well? JAL: No, it’s [production company] Tre Vänner. The Northlander: And I’ve also got to ask you, Matt Reeves is shooting the American version of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. How do you feel about that, or Hollywood remakes in general? Especially since this is such a personal story. JAL: Yeah well, it’s hard for me to... Tomas’ film is the definitive film, it is, I can’t imagine how anything would be better. BUT, that said, I was very happy when I heard it would be Matt Reeves when I knew there would be a Hollywood production, I thought it was cool that it was him. It had nothing to do with this, but I watched Cloverfield a year ago and thought it was really good. Or, I thought it was a worn out theme that was done in a completely new way, a cool way. So I liked it. And he’s also emailed me and expressed how much he likes the actual story and could identify with it and that he really would treat it with respect and he looks forward to doing this, it’s not something they’ve just tossed at him. ’You’re gonna make this movie, Matt! Chop-chop!’. He really wants to make this film. I think that’s a really cool place to start. The Northlander: So he’s read the book and everything? JAL: He’s read the book, and he very much likes the book, and I also like very much that from what I hear he’s writing the screenplay himself. It’s really a re-adaptation. The Northlander: Good. JAL: He will make a new film based on the book, and not remake the Swedish film. So I think it’s more exciting than anything. The Northlander: Yeah because that was my first thought as well, that there is... I love the movie, and I think Tomas Alfredson is one of the best Swedish directors working... JAL: I think so too. The Northlander: In 2005, when I heard he was going to direct the film, and I’d just read the book, and I’d just seen [Alfredson’s film] FOUR SHADES OF BROWN... It was just so obvious. JAL: Yeah. The Northlander: It was him, or Lasse Hallström. JAL: Right. The Northlander: But my first thought was still that there is so much in the book that is not in the film, like the return of Håkan and stuff like that. JAL: The return of Håkan, Virginia drinking her own blood... Virginia’s vampire transformation on the whole and what that leads up to... there are so many other things to take from the book and you can make this entirely different sort of movie, you can make this much more violent horror movie type of film. And I don’t mind that if it’s done with a sense of honesty and intent and the talent that I actually think he has, Matt Reeves. So I think it could be something, it’ll be something completely different, but it’s going to be really interesting to see. The Northlander: I’m really glad to hear you say that because there’s been some talk among the Ain’t It Cool News talkbacks, people have been really sceptic, you know? JAL: Yeah but you see that on all remakes, right? The Northlander: Yeah and they don’t know the book and how violent it actually is in some passages. JAL: Yeah, a straight out remake, I’m not sure I would have been so happy about, if they’d just sort of plagiarised, copied the Swedish film. That, I don’t think I would have been so positive to. But this, starting over with the story, and he’s doing it from his own head, that I think... Nah I think it’s exciting. The Northlander: But so you’ve written about vampires, you’ve written about z... the living dead [in the HANDLING THE UNDEAD novel]. Or, I’m not sure you can say the Z-word. JAL: ’Re-living’, is what it’s called now. The Northlander: Right, the ’re-living’. JAL: Damned if I know what they call it in the English translation. ’Re-living’? The Northlander: Are there any other subgenres in horror that you’d like to... JAL: No, not really. That is, I did those two central things. It would be werewolves then, but I really... I do have a werewolf idea, but it’s not prominent – Now Anne is listening! (laughs). No there won’t be a werewolf. That was too... there was even a screenwriter who wrote to me just to check like ’You’re not writing about werewolves anytime soon, right?’ ’No, I’m not’ ’Well, good. Because I’m doing that now, so... Thanks.’ (laughs). No but it’s... ghosts, in the latest novel. But it’s very strange ghosts, they’re not conventional ghosts at all. Have you read it, MÄNNISKOHAMN? [no English title decided yet]. The Northlander: No, is it released yet? JAL: Yeah, it came out in May, that is earlier [this year]. Yeah it’s two teenage ghosts driving around on a moped, and they quote The Smiths all the time. So they’re not regular ghosts. They use the Smiths quotes instead of rattling chains. And Trolls, I’ve written about that too. But in the upcoming books there’s none of that kind of, no monster at all. None of that horror movie... horror story... basic commodity. The Northlander: Okay so more of a drama or a comedy then? JAL: Well, no the next book is more... there’s nothing supernatural in it but it’ll be very... unless you think a baby that can sing absolutely pitch perfect is supernatural, but that’s just really very strange. There’s not much left. Mummies? Oh hell no. There’s like nothing left. The Northlander: A couple of years ago, I got hold of the first version of the screenplay. JAL: Okay? What, the really long one, the two-parter? The Northlander: The two-parter, exactly. JAL: 250 pages or something. The Northlander: I read it before I read the book, and I read the book immediately after. JAL: Okay. The Northlander: ...and what occured to me was that this whole thing with Håkan, Håkan’s background and everything, it was removed even in the first version. JAL: Very early on, yeah. The Northlander: My first thought back then was, that you don’t know anything about him. It could be, that he’s been with Eli since he was very little. JAL: ...and that’s almost implied in the film. The movie ends so that you almost believe that Oskar becomes a new Håkan. The Northlander: Yeah so that was intended? JAL: I think that Tomas deliberately left that open. But I know a lot of people recieve it as now Eli has gotten herself a new helper that’s going to follow [her]. That is NOT my version of the end. I’ve written a short epilogue to the epilogue, that is like my version which will come out in a few years. But it’s just 5-6 pages. Until then, Tomas version will reign. It’s a really good ending to the movie. It’s perfect. But it’s a different version from mine. It’s in the book a little bit, Eli picks up Håkan from the gutter when he’s grown up and filthy already. The Northlander: But yet there are implications in the book, I feel, that you don’t really know if Eli is quite what she says she is, that maybe she... Maybe she’s using Oskar or maybe she isn’t. You don’t really know. JAL: No. And that’s pretty good. I think it’s pretty good that it’s open like that. But right now, there is so much going on around the book... I like the open ending in the novel. But I would still at some point like to give it my much happier ending. The Northlander: Maybe next short story collection? [his last short story collection, PAPPERSVÄGGAR, contains a short epilogue to his novel HANDLING THE UNDEAD] JAL: Yeah, that’s right. That’s what it’ll be. The Northlander: There were a few characters in the movie that... Almost everything – all the locations, all the characters, all the environments, felt like they were taken straight out of the novel. There was Oskar’s mom, and Håkan, who are a bit different in the movie though in their ways. Is that a result of the story being so much shortened, or was that deliberate? JAL: That... Tomas had a different view of Oskar’s mom, so he made her that way. Then also... there’s a very nice scene with her and Oskar – when he wants her to tell him a story but she doesn’t know any stories so she’s going to sing, but then the moment has passed and he turns away from her – where she’s really nice. But it was dropped. They are still side characters. Håkan is a very central character in the novel [but] he’s very much a minor character here [in the movie]. It’s a consequence of really concentrating on Oskar and Eli and letting their scenes take exactly the time they should. Even if it means you have to cut the smaller character’s lives and destinies. That’s a really big difference aganst the book where you have the whole Lacke thing and the whole Håkan thing and... it’s... I really see that you read the book as a compliment if you like the film. The Northlander: I agree, absolutetly. I’ve even sent a few copies to friends in the US. What I really like also with it is that despite these two characters feeling a bit different, everything [in the movie] still feels like moments from the book and it COULD be that that’s how Oskar maybe perceives his mother sometimes, a little more stressed out and Håkan a little scarier, so there’s still nothing that contradicts [the book]. JAL: No, I feel that way too. And the scenes that are kind of changed or added, most of it I’ve done myself, changed in the script, but then [there’s] a couple of things that Tomas did that aren’t even in the script. That part with Virginia where, when you look at her, with the bloody cottonball for example. That was a way to...We thought for a long time that we were going to do that bit where she drinks her own blood but Tomas backed away from that scene and so we got this instead. I feel, that it could have been that way instead [in the book]. That works. I could have [done] it like that instead. Because there is that [in the book] where she cuts herself on a prawn or something and she starts drinking from her finger. The Northlander: That’s toned down. But it’s toned down too a lot this thing with Eli and her, or his, origin and... JAL: They actually shot parts of that. Or started shooting, I know, the one with Eli’s horrible background when she kisses Oskar, or it’s earlier in the movie. I’ve seen brief... it was supposed to be very dreamlike and short and very nasty. And it was, but... it fell over. So it wasn’t included. The Northlander: The editing process... JAL: The editing thing. So I’ve seen some of those scenes, that are really great but that are not in the film. The Northlander: Could it be something for the DVD perhaps later? JAL: Maybe. But I think Tomas is very disinclined to things like that. I think he kind of wants it to be... like This is what’s there. I think. The Northlander: Okay, now The Title. JAL: The Title. The Northlander: Morrisey. JAL: Morrisey. The Northlander: Yeah. It’s still there in the American novel, and the film’s title, but in the UK the book is called LET ME IN. JAL: That’s the American. The Northlander. That’s the American? JAL: Yeah. They thought it was too long. They thought my name was too long well, they asked if I could change that too. But I wouldn’t agree to that (laughs). Their suggestion, their original suggestion for the title was LET HER IN. (nods ironically) Yeah... so I wonder if they had read the book before they suggested that. But then I suggested LET ME IN instead and then they thought that was fine. But I’m happy because now they’re re-issuing it as a paperback with the release of the film in the US and now it’s got the correct title. The Northlander: Oh right, they’ve taken the film’s title and... JAL: Yeah and they give it one of those movie paperback covers from [the movie]. But I suppose they’ll have to do that again later on when the American [remake comes out]. I don’t know how they do with that. The Northlander: But will there be the same title for the American remake of [it]? JAL: I don’t know that. I hope it’s not called THE HEISENBERG SYNDROME or something. The Northlander: (laughs) Yeah, you never know. JAL: Yeah, or just DOLPH! Nah. (laughs) We’re caught a bit on that because Dolph Lundgren had some sort of press conference in the room next door. The Northlander. Yeah? Hasse, like he’s called. JAL: Hasse? That’s his name? Hans Lundgren? The Northlander: Yeah I think he was friends with my high school gym teacher. JAL: Really? Wow. That’s an achievement. The Northlander: Yeah that’s something to brag about... JAL: Yeah. The Northlander. ...while doing interviews. JAL: (laughs) Yeah so no I was happy when it got it’s real title back. I wasn’t happy at all when the Americans wanted to change it, but I’m pragmatic. It’s called SO FINSTER DIE NACHT in Germany; ”So dark the night”. It’s called DEJAME ENTRAR in Spanish – ”Let me in”, in Spanish. So there’s... there’s no point making a fuss. The Northlander: But that title almost fits the book better than it does the movie, because in the book you’ve got all these sub stories about Tommy and his mom and everything is about letting the right one in, or letting the wrong one in maybe. JAL: Yeah it does. It’s a lot about going through the wrong doors and being in the wrong places. Crossing thresholds, it is. But you can see it in the movie too because of that scene I actually had to convince Tomas, [and] Tomas has reminded me he wasn’t going to include that scene but I said it HAD to be in there, it HAD to. It’s when Eli enters without being invited and starts to bleed. Because he couldn’t see how he was going to be able to do that well. But I said, you’ll have to figure it out. (laughs) Because it has to be in there, and later I know he’s been very happy with it himself, how it turned out. The Northlander: Yeah it’s one of those I know there’s been some talk about too. JAL: I think it was when he figured out he was going to use these extreme close-ups, that was the key. On the ear, and the hairline and... it was there, kind of. He couldn’t imagine seeing how Eli just stands there and it starts to (pretends blood falling everywhere from himself)... that he didn’t really want that. But when he figured that out I think he saw how he was going to do it. The Northlander: Yeah, you see. He’s very... JAL: He’s a clever guy. The Northlander: Absolutely. So will you continue to write just for Sweden, or will you see if you can go internationally with the writing? JAL: Yeah what do you say, Anne? Yeah, no I write for Sweden, I mean obviously. I would be stupid otherwise. This LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, it’s so difficult, it is so very Swedish. It is so full of Swedish details, Swedish 1980s, and yet it’s a huge success in Australia. You can’t plan like that. It would just be bad. The next book I’m writing, [the national Swedish music event] ALLSÅNG PÅ SKANSEN plays a big part in it and i’s pretty stupid [to write like that] from an international perspective. [ALLSÅNG host] Anders Lundin, yeah... But you just hope it goes okay, you have to write from... I mean I’m very rooted in Sweden and the Swedish [way] and I have to use that as a ground in everything I write. It’s just about continuing to do that. If I tried writing something else and started thinking ’No this might not work in Holland. I shouldn’t say anything bad about tulips. I’m gonna say tulips are good.’ – You can’t do that., it’s just bad. The Northlander: While if you write from yourself it might work? JAL: You hope so, that if I try to express it as carefully and honestly from my own sensibilities and what I feel... I start very much from ’These are the images, and I’m going to find my way to these images one way or another, I don’t understand how this image will fit into this story but I know it’s supposed to. I just have to change this and that and make so that some way we can reach this point where we get this image’. I wanted a boy, Tommy, who was just shut inside... that was one of these basic scenes, shut inside a pitch black room together with that which he fears the most. That’s like the... primordial horror scene. Where Tommy is locked in with Håkan in the bomb shelter. That’s like... and then see, can I make it, can I take it seriously enough, make it really nasty? Then it was just a matter of kind of figuring out a whole bunch of threads that leads up to him being locked in there with Håkan in this shelter so that I can get to write that scene which was very fun to write. That [other] rape scene was incredibly horrible to write, but that scene with Tommy and Håkan was just fun. Just this having to use... it became like 6-7 pages long or something and it’s completely dark. To describe [something] when you don’t get to use visual sensory perceptions, just the stuff inside the head. That was fun. The Northlander: Yeah you can tell when you read that. JAL: That I’ve had fun? The Northlander: Yeah but you know what I mean. JAL: It’s a little darling. The Northlander. It’s really nice. It’s a bit of a shame that none of that whole storyline made it into the film, but at the same time it’s a sweet surprise for those who... JAL: ...yeah when you read the book. Tommy is a cool guy anyway and all, and Lacke, and they’re very developed and so... but that’s very impossible [to do] in the movie. The Northlander: Speaking of Tommy and the bomb shelter, when I read HANDLING THE UNDEAD, I felt there were a lot of details in those two books that felt very related. JAL: Yeah? The Northlander: You have the teenager in the storage space... JAL: I have a teenager in a storage space? The Northlander: Yeah only he’s in a bicycle storage [in HANDLING THE UNDEAD]. JAL: Right, he’s in the bicycle storage. The Northlander: ...the delivery trike, the name Elias, Håkan and Mahler feels... not the same but related and they have their Elias. JAL: Yeah those are a few examples of not being strategic. Delivery trikes has a helluva role in this too (points to MÄNNISKOÖDEN) and delivery trikes is one of those things that foreign translators... in Italy they don’t know what a delivery trike is. [That kind of] delivery trikes only exist like that here in Scandinavia. So then they translate it to something really stupid because they don’t have those. And then, maybe I could constrain myself, maybe not have so many delivery trikes (laughs), but I don’t know what it is about delivery trikes – I just like them so much. Sorry. The Northlander: All these things, what is the origin to these details? Are these things you’ve taken from yourself, or is it things you just happen to like, like delivery trikes? JAL: Well, it’s the areas. That is, there are bicycle storages where I grew up, there on [street] Ibsengatan where I grew up, and I imagine simply that he lives in that bicycle storage. I guess I choose details that feels somehow to personally to me charged with meaning. Then it’s easier for me to feel for them when I add them to the story as well. When I see them clearly in front of me and... which makes me probably return... later, and the delivery trike probably means something to me that I don’t really know what it is but makes me return to it all the time. The Northlander: You say you’re also a big horror fan. JAL: Yeah. The Northlander: Horror movies is something of a scarce commodity in Sweden. JAL: Oh God yes. The Northlander: I can’t really think of any really good one besides this one. JAL: No. The Northlander: Then this one comes along, and it’s really... But do you think this will pave way for something new, that there will be more chances for that? JAL: Maybe. It’s not impossible. I mean, it’s like with horror litterature, there haven’t been all that much horror litterature from Sweden anyway, but there have been a few since mine started [being published] so it should be a little more possible for a producer to actually bet on a horror film. The Northlander: There is also sort of a wave of European horror films going on... now that the torture porn is over and everything. JAL: Yeah. Oh God, I saw this French film called THE MARTYRS that was AWFUL! The Northlander: Yeah? Was it bad? JAL: No, it was very good, but don’t see it. It’s one of those films that I don’t recommend ANYONE to see. It was really good, but it sits there like this big nastiness in your body a LONG time afterwards. The Northlander. It does? You’re not the first one I’ve heard say that actually. JAL: No. Be careful with that one. The Northlander: So is it visually haunting, or...? JAL: It’s visually haunting, I think so – the second half of the movie. The first half of the movie is just a very nasty horror movie, and I thought that was really cool. The second half of the movie is just drawn out torture of this young girl, by this dumb guy for some indescribable reason. The Northlander: So, what’s the next project for you? JAL: The next project for me is HANDLING THE UNDEAD, then we’ll see if Tomas and I might make another movie together based on that book (points to MÄNNISKOHAMN), maybe we’ll see how that developes. Other than that, I’m right now writing my fifth novel called LILLA STJÄRNA (also no English title decided yet), which I am working on right now. The Northlander. Okay, that’s the one with the baby who can sing? JAL: The one with the baby who can sing. Exposed teenagers with powertools. (laughs) The Northlander: Thank you very much. So, that’s it, guys. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a book I strongly recommend you check out, as well as the movie. Right now I’ve got pretty high expectations on Matt Reeve’s version, we’ll just see how that works out. /The Northlander

Readers Talkback

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  • Oct. 23, 2008, 7:10 a.m. CST

    Primero

    by BeeDub

    Putos!

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 7:30 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to see this

    by kwisatzhaderach

    Anyone know when the UK release is?

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 8:26 a.m. CST

    Filip!

    by Nordling

    Excellent work, man, way to go.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 8:27 a.m. CST

    Fuckin loved this movie

    by Speed Fricassee

    Can't wait to own it.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 9:03 a.m. CST

    If you love the movie, or even just like it..

    by StovetopStuffin'

    read the book. I'm almost done with it myself, and it is easily 10 times better. The movie is good, but the book has so many more characters and so much more to their stories. It's a shame they had to leave so much out.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 9:39 a.m. CST

    Never dreamt I'd read about "Allsång på Skansen" on AICN!

    by BenBraddock

    But there it is! Can't wait to see the movie so I can read this interview in depth, instead of just skimming through it. So glad the it's finally on general release, it took ages. I think I'll try and see this in Blackeberg, if they have a cinema there, that'd be cool. Like seeing Jaws in Martha's Vineyard or Trainspotting in Edinburgh or something.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 11:35 a.m. CST

    Great, great interview!

    by thedeadnextdoor

    I live in Sweden, too and I´ve read every interview with Ajvide Lindqvist that I´ve gotten my paws on and this was hands down one of the best. A great read and thank you for focusing on the horror genre and not his personal life, Northlander!

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 3:27 p.m. CST

    WOW

    by filmdude68

    Saw this monday night at my special film series i go to. What a suprise, GREAT friggin film!

  • Nov. 15, 2008, 2:51 a.m. CST

    Loved the movie; this interview ensures I pick up the book too

    by Calico Pete

    I hope the book maintains the sense of otherworldly isolation and beauty. Can't wait to read it.

  • March 19, 2009, 3:16 a.m. CST

    Sequel?

    by Path

    Good movie and an amazing book. Finished it in a couple days, couldn't put it down. Even called in sick to work so i could finish it. Books with this level of imagination and imagery are a rare find these days. I can only hope that there will be a sequel. Does anyone know if Mr. Lindqvist is planning on writing a sequel?

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:24 a.m. CST

    ???

    by orcus