Only Lovers Left Alive is a vampire film with a twist, directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. It came out in 2013 and although well received by critics and film festivals it did not get a huge release. Upon watching it you can see why, it is the polar opposite of a blockbuster. If Twilight’s glistening, despicable, farcical, twinkling shovel-faced excuses for vampires were day then these would be night; intelligent, sophisticated and dark.
This is one of the most original and intelligent films made in recent years, is fantastically made and I would definitely recommend watching!
So without further ado, here is the trailer:
This film creates an entire backstory and history surrounding the culture of vampires whilst centering around Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton), who have been married for centuries but live in different worlds. Adam is an underground musician in Detroit whilst Eve reads voraciously in Tangiers, Morocco. Throughout the ages the have influenced and been inspired by great artists, scientists and musicians. A one stage Adam rattles of a list of friends including Gallileo, Newton and Tesla. Possibly the most intellectual and world changing name-drop in history. Eve’s dearest friend goes by the alias Kit (John Hurt) although it quickly becomes apparent he is actually Christopher Marlowe, the man rumoured to have faked his death to become Shakespeare. He also happens to be Eve’s contact to get ”the good stuff”, ie uncontaminated and healthy human blood.
These vampires sleep all day and wake all night. They drink blood. They have fangs. They are immortal. But they are not mindless monsters intent on world domination (see Van Helsing, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Daybreakers for reference). Nor are they those driveling, mindless, bland, vacuous empty shells of pitiful nothingness found in the Twilight movies!…God it just makes me so angry! These vampires are people with range, intelligence and emotion. They are characters, which is a novelty in of itself in what is essentially a vampire movie. They show the true potential of immortality; near limitless wisdom, a connection with the world, a sense of perspective. This was a brilliant piece of screen-writing to construct these characters. Eve is content to read and enjoy the world whereas Adam creates beautiful music but hides it from the world; spiteful of the humans and the banality and destructiveness. He calls them zombies with contempt and pity for wandering through life so aimlessly, this has left him depressed and insular…a typical tortured artist if you will. This prompts Eve to travel to Detroit and reinvigorate her lover.
Half-way through Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) enters, a vampire who appears to have been ”turned” in her early 20’s. She is impulsive, reckless, full of limitless energy and always on the move. She is the flip side of the coin. An eternally wasted youth, forever stuck in the abyss between adolescence and adulthood and this immaturity causes problems. Particularly clashing with Adams insular and pensive attitude.
At this point it is only fair to stop and say that all the performances in this film are brilliant, especially Swinton and Hiddleston’s.
Living in today’s civilized society vampires try to avoid killing humans for blood and instead must find and bribe local doctors for excess “O Neg” blood supplies, for which they pay handsomely… in Adam’s case anyway. Adam’s contact is Dr.Watson, who played brilliantly in a small role by Jeffrey Wright provides some light relief. The blood drinking was a delight to watch. Small, delicate glasses filled with viscous red-liquid providing instant ecstasy and satisfaction. For the more impulsive vampires such as Ava, you could see how this may be problematic.
The film takes place entirely at night, but the shots are still full of vibrant colour and tone. Each of Adam and Eve’s interactions with this nocturnal world is a brief glimpse into their life experiences; reciting each plant they touch by its latin name, bewilderment at mushrooms growing out of season, the state of modern humanity. All is placed in order and perspective. Add to this a haunting soundtrack that ranges from ethereal soft sounds to hard rock and to Arabic moods. It really is a pleasure to watch. ALTHOUGH my one complaint would be that the speaking volume is low, especially in the 1st 30 mins, and I watched with subtitles to compensate.
Vampire lore and mythology is referenced and adhered to in creative ways. Bad luck to pass a threshold uninvited, but garlic is laughed off as an old superstition. Adam acquires a bullet made of dense wood when contemplating suicide. They sleep through the day, cant go out in sunlight and as such only travel on overnight flights, by first class I might add. Coffins and wooden stakes are playfully mention. Yet when called upon and given no alternative they will turn to their darker, revered and frightening ways, all in the name of self preservation… either that or thirst.
It is all there. These characters are Vampires but they feel fresh and original, a miraculous achievement.
One thing I didn’t understand was why they were always wearing gloves? If anyone has any ideas about Vampires and gloves let me know!
Now for two more comical observations:
1) Where did they get all this money from? I mean they are seriously loaded. Adam is paying out thousands of dollars a week for instruments, recording equipment and not to mention the blood. Then they fly first class everywhere…from Detroit to Madrid and then to Tangiers…that shit ain’t cheap!
Okay over the centuries they probably have a pretty large accumulation of rare and valuable stuff they can sell. Maybe they put some money in the bank in the 1500s and they’re just raking in the interest. Who knows? Either way for a couple without jobs they are playing with some serious cheddar.
2) By calling them Adam and Eve where they implying they have been around since the first signs of humanity? If so why aren’t all people related to/types of vampire? Is this biblical? Were these two the ones who pissed God off, pulled a fast one and got God to punish the humans for original sin?
Anyway this got me thinking. (SPOILER AHEAD)…..
If they are Adam and Eve, maybe the older Christopher Monroe is a God like/Jesus sort of figure. And if so that means that a dodgy doctor in Tangiers killed Jesus by giving him some dirty blood. He is not going to be popular in church on Sunday!
This is a fantastic film and I truly recommend giving it a watch. This film may star Vampires but it is not a horror movie. It is really a story about love and the appreciation of life that is delivered with charm, some interesting philosophy and a dash of historical artistic license!
VERDICT: ”You must excuse me, for I have already dined. And I never drink wine.”
PS: ”To make you a vampire they have to suck your blood. Then you have to suck their blood. It’s like a whole big sucking thing.”