Discuss: Are Remakes Like 'Let Me In' Any Less Genuine or Honest?
by Ethan Anderton
February 27, 2012
On the movie news front, it seems every week there's another remake, reboot or reimagining coming our way. Most of the time, myself and many of my colleagues are quick to complain at the mere prospect of a remake, but when the right directing and acting talent comes together, there just might be something special to be made. This is even more likely when remaking a highly acclaimed foreign film for American audiences. However, director Tomas Alfredson, who saw his film Let the Right One In quickly remade into Let Me In by Matt Reeves, doesn't seem to be a big fan of the remake, or any remakes. More below!
The Playlist recently noticed an interview with Alfredson where he was asked about Reeves' take on the source material with Let Me In. Before we get to his response, let's flashback to another interview the aforementioned indieWire blog did with the director. Alfredson hadn't yet seen Let Me In and he said:
"I haven’t seen it. It was a little disturbing when I first heard about it because I think I was still working on marketing my own version. So it was a little quick. It’s a very personal thing to be working with a book for several years. You think it’s your own and you fight for it a lot and then to be hearing about someone else dancing with your girlfriend, it’s strange. But I heard that it’s a good film and that they did a great job, so it’s no hard feelings. I will see it."
But in talking with The Wall Street Journal just recently, his bark had some bite with it this time. While he doesn't say that he's seen the film yet, Alfredson commented:
"I think that there's something dishonest about copying someone's work. I think it's much stronger if you do something personal of your own that's original."
Seems kind of harsh. While I'm all for original work over recycled stories, it's a bit disrespectful to say that someone can't connect with the material and still deliver a fresh and fantastic take on the material. In the case of Let the Right One In, it seems almost hypocritical as he's not exactly doing something original as the film is based on the book of the same name. In that same fashion, Reeves merely adapted the book for his own purposes and even went so far as to change the location and make it very personal with 80's paraphernalia and situations. There's no way to say that Reeves film is any less honest or genuine simply because it came after Alfredson's take on the subject matter. The themes are the same at the heart of the story, but the way it's told in each director's hands is still something unique and, essentially, original.
Perhaps my biggest problem with this criticism coming from Alfredson is the fact that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the director's most recent film, had already been adapted into a series starring Alec Guiness. That's some sweet irony right there. Recognizing this fact, Alfredson does say, "There are so many ways to tell the same story with so many different approaches," but I fail to see how that doesn't apply to Let Me In, especially since Reeves merely adapted same book Alfredson did.
However, the point remains as to whether any remake, no matter how good, somehow feels less honest, special or genuine, merely because it's been told before. In the case of foreign films, it can easily make the film easier to relate to for audiences who don't live in Sweden, France, Spain or any country with a film worth remaking. A change in location can even make the story more personal for any given director, and I think that's what made Reeves take on Let the Right One In not just tolerable, but also still powerful.
It's at this point that we'll hand it over to you readers and cinephiles. How do you feel about remakes like Let Me In? Is there something intrinsically cheap or illegitimate about them? Do you find it easier to connect with either film for different reasons? Can a remake be stronger than the original film? Sound off!