I saw the film; loved it, loved the fragmentary glimpses that we get hinting at Eli’s background, the levels and layers to the sexuality of vampires, playing with the tropes, but also embracing them in a way that was utterly affectionate and not a parody at all.
So I decided to read the book.
The feel of it is different. The horror is more visceral – more important to the story line, the loneliness and patheticness of Oskar played up (the Pissball is an example of this) and the bland hopelessness of the suburb of Blackeberg more palpably desperate, especially as seen through the other characters in the story. Look at the way alcoholics Virginia and Lacke’s story contrasts and echoes Eli and Oskar’s – all in all it’s a very bleak picture the author has painted.
The stories of the minor characters weave through the main narrative wonderfully, and I really felt like I learned something from that as a writer.
The layers of sexuality present in the movie are also added to when we discover the real reason behind Hakan becoming Eli’s ‘handler” And yes, there are certainly things in the book that were cut entirely from the film. For a start, the film felt more like a coming of age story than the book which I felt panned out more a s a straight horror, and the focus seemed to shift remarkably between the two mediums.
Naturally, the thing that hooked me the most is the genderqueering of the relationship between Eli and Oskar. I love it. The book certainly doesn’t play as coy as the movie about Eli’s view of himself, and it’s so heart-wrenching to read – how Eli has lost even the basics of human cleanliness, and it’s his friendship and love for Oskar that ultimately give him back both a semblance of humanity, but also destroys it furthur. And Eli …Eli trying so hard to be what Oskar wants, to not be a murderer.
Eli’s loneliness is made so obvious – this is no sparkling immortal vampire plucked at the age of perfection – he’s a child, trapped forever in a state where she must rely on others, and her note to Oskar telling him how much she liked him actually had me tearing up. It was just so…utterly childlike and lost. Eli is not the vampire teen goths dream of becoming; her life is small, dirty, agonsingly lonely. And because of this her love for Oskar is such a careful and brittle thing. Guh. I am floored.
Obviously, I read the translation, so I don’t know how it holds up against the original but my god there are some perfect perfect moments where so much is said with the simplest of words:
A silence fell between them. The kind of silence that is particular to
hospitals and that stems from the fact that the very situation—one person
in the bed, sick or injured, and a healthy person at her side—says it all.
Words become small, superfluous.