DIR/WRI: Jim Jarmusch • PRO: Reinhard Brundig, Jeremy Thomas • DOP: Yorick Le Saux • ED: Affonso Gonçalves • MUS: Jozef van Wissem • DES: Marco Bittner Rosser • CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt
The oddest thing has happened to vampires over the last few decades – they have lost their ability to bite. Originally embodying a monstrous sexual predator, their desire to penetrate the necks of beautiful young woman had previously been their overriding attribute. Now, they seem more concerned with the moral quandary of biting and these previous imps of evil have transformed into moody, self-indulgent figures. Surely we have humans enough for that?
Moody and self-indulgent are also labels that could be applied to Jim Jarmusch’s latest venture Only Lovers Left Alive. Despite being a vampire romance, this film will equally dissatisfy any Twlight or horror movie-fans that venture along to see it. However, Jarmusch fans who are ready to be absorbed into this his aesthetically and aurally rich world of by gone Hipster-dom won’t leave disappointed.
The plot, if that is not too strong a word for this meandering piece, centres around two vampires called Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Even after being married for nearly two centuries they are still in love like newly weds. Adam lives in a suburb of run down Detroit, symbolically representative of how he feels humanity (who he refers to as “zombies”) has reached an all time low. He skulks around his run-down mansion, playing complicated music while contemplating ending his world-weary existence. Basically, he’s that guy you knew in University who carried around a copy of the Communist Manifesto, only wore black, listened to obscure music and thought everyone else was an idiot. Eve is the metaphorical and literal light to his darkness. Dressing only in white with stark blonde hair, she lures him out of his depressive with talk of the wonders of the universe and the glories of past cultural endeavours. They name drop to the point of obscenity, Byron is labelled “a pompous bore” while Eve congratulates Adam on letting Schubert take the credit for his music. These modern vampires only drink blood procured from hospitals and reliable sources; biting necks is considered “so 15th century”. The action builds to the arrival of Eve’s little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska). Despite being an ancient vampire she has all the characteristics of an annoying teenager, and she comes to wreak havoc on their blissful, loved up existence. However, once again “action” is a strong word to give to any part of the script; this is a film to be enjoyed for the atmosphere and languid pacing rather than any plot driven devices.
In reality, this need not have been a film about vampires. It could have been about any rich, boho hipsters with family issues and a massive drug problem; the drug in this case just happens to be blood. Being around for centuries has meant these vampires have mastered the world of music, literature, science and language. This often makes them come across as pretentious cultural snobs, as Ava labels the two lovers. But I suppose if you have conquered all realms of culture you are somewhat entitled to be elitist. Jarmusch’s movies have often centred around despondent, cool figures. Yet in Only Lovers Left Alive he seems overly concerned with highlighting their inherent “coolness”, like when they wear biker gloves and sunglasses at night, even inside, for some unexplained reason.
The soundtrack is at the heart of the piece, taking influence from the underground rock scene of Detroit to traditional Moroccan music in Tangier, where the couple end up. Swinton outshines the rest of the cast as the tender, light-hearted lover to the artistically tortured Hiddleston, who seems to channel an angst-ridden Jim Morrison for his role.
If this is a Jim Jarmusch romance, then his love is directed toward music, literature and culture of bygone eras. However, a note in the end credits to his long-term partner Sara Driver could explain the heart at the centre of this story. Perhaps they’re the only two punks left on a planet over crowed with talentless celebrities. The world of Only Lovers Left Alive creates a refuge from this place.
Deirdre Mc Mahon
15A (See IFCO for details)
Only Lovers Left Alive is released on 21st February 2014