Tomas Alfredson-critical reflection on an industry practitioner

Tomas Alfredson is a Swedish film director, best known for his 2008 vampire film Let the Right One In, and 2011 thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He has received the Guldbagge award for Best Direction twice; in 2005 for Four Shades of Brown, and again in 2009 for Let the Right One In.

I love Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy because they are so beautiful to watch. When watching Let the Right One In, you can almost feel the cold coming off the TV screen in waves, its so bleak; the atmosphere created  by the clever cinematography is like nothing I have experienced before when watching a film. Derived from a novel, Let the Right One In is a strange, supernatural take on a romance story between two children; Oskar, a victim of bullying and Eli, a vampire who has just moved in next door. I’m fascinated by Alfredson’s ability to create such deep atmosphere in a film, bringing the place and the characters alike to life in front of your eyes. Let the Right One In is possibly one of the best recent horror films I’ve seen because of the atmosphere; the rawness and coldness of it. Its slow moving with very little action, which allows for the romance to evolve between the two protagonists, giving it a deeper and slightly more relatable story than the average vampire film. The bleakness alongside the long takes builds a subtle tension, both between the two characters, and in general; fueling the audience’s expectations of what’s to come.

Another, more recent example of Alfredson’s work is the 2011 thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Alfredson directed Gary Oldman to an Oscar nomination in this film for best actor.

Tinker Tailor has the same depth of atmosphere as Let the Right One In. The costume, props, settings and buildings are all so well thought out and put together, the mise en scene is perfect and the colour and music all work together to create a fantastic feel of early 70’s London. Even the cars are all authentic; at no point while watching the film did I think that it wasn’t authentic of the time period it was portraying. Alfredson’s attention to detail is astounding. What I found really fascinating about this particular film however was the power of silence. Gary Oldman’s character George Smiley is definitely the strong but silent type, and there were many long takes with no dialogue at all, like the scenes of Smiley swimming in a lake. Its a very clever way to not only focus in on the character, but to build up atmosphere and tension. I think that the silence in Tinker Tailor was perhaps more powerful than any of the dialogue! The main reason I think this works is because of Alfredson’s talent for generating atmosphere; if we didn’t completely believe in what we were seeing, and weren’t completely absorbed by it, then watching a long, silent, take of Gary Oldman swimming in a lake would lose our interest. You can definitely see, despite the marked difference in the type of film, the similarities between Tinker Tailor and Let the Right One In. My only criticism, and not so much about Tomas Alfredson himself but of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, would be that it didn’t particularly have the level of suspense and tension that I thought was suitable for an espionage thriller. Although the atmosphere is completely absorbing, I felt that too much time was spent on that, and not enough on making the plot exciting.

I am inspired by Tomas Alfredson’s work, because I love the idea of creating atmosphere that leaks out of the screen, completely engulfing and enthralling the audience. I’m fascinated by his attention to detail and ability to create such an authentic film that almost makes you feel a part of it while you watch.



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