Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

Only Lovers Left AliveIn an abandoned district in modern-day Detroit, an ancient vampire spends his nights composing music and making withdrawals from his local blood-bank. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) has grown tired of the world beyond his walls, and — save for Ian (Anton Yelchin), his supplier — of the humans that are laying waste to it. Eve (Tilda Swinton), who is vacationing in Tangiers, senses her husband’s troubles, and books herself onto the next night flight back to America. Before she leaves, however, her mentor Marlowe (John Hurt) dreams of her sister, and no sooner has Eve returned home than Ava (Mia Wasikowska) is threatening to destroy it.

On the surface, Only Lovers Left Alive sounds very much like more of the same; it is after all the story of angst-ridden, eternal love between vegan vampires. Probe deeper, however, and Jim Jarmusch’s film couldn’t be more different to Twilight or Cirque du Freak: The Vampire Assistant. The cast is older for a start, and there’s no vampire baseball or Vampanese, but the key difference is that Only Lovers Left Alive isn’t about the relationship itself so much as its two constituent players. This isn’t melodrama; it’s melancholia.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are outstanding as Adam and Eve, the former playing a suicidal musician and the latter a lover of both literature and life. As the camera spins around them, emulating the cyclical nature of their eternal plight, the characters make for entrancing case studies, and provide interesting insight into Jarmusch’s take on vampire lore: Adam, for example, writes music in the hope of finding his reflection in it, turning a genre cliche into something much more personal. There is the suggestion that a vampire ghost-wrote Shakespeare’s collective works and that Adam once knew Byron, but the film never dwells on references to the real world. (It is not, for example, revealed that Bach or Abraham Lincoln were once upon a time vampire hunters.)

Only Lovers Left Alive is cool, sexy and hypnotic, with a visual style that falls somewhere between The Crow and The Matrix. Both characters are old enough to know better than to waste time hunting humans, and they’ve instead used the centuries to become experts in everything from electronics to fungi. It may sound unlikely, but many of the most memorable scenes involve characters caressing musical instruments or reciting from books. The socio-political commentary is also startlingly astute, meaning that this is a vampire movie which doesn’t rely on psychosexual symbolism or veiled metaphor to get its point across. It’s refreshing.

As stimulating as Jarmusch’s film is, however, it’s not without weakness. Though never boring, Only Lovers Left Alive is incredibly light on actual incident, and to fully justify its two-hour running time it could have really used a little more depth or detail. On the whole, however, it’s a stunning success, and proves once more that the moon has not yet set on the screen vampire.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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