Monday, May 5, 2014


Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a take on the old vampire genre like no other. It embraces nearly every aspect of the bloodsucker mythos without hanging its fangs on them for too long to become cliché. In fact, the word “vampire” is never uttered once in the film. In the hands of a lesser mortal, such an approach could wind up rather messily. But this happens to be in the hands of a master filmmaker.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston), and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampire lovers/soulmates who have been married for centuries; so long that they often have to spend decades apart. When Adam begins to lose his want to live on this world, Eve comes back to him…and their blissful reunion is interrupted by Eve’s irresponsible vampire sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), whose behavior threatens their secretive lives.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE doesn’t have much by way of plot, and instead embraces the week-in-the-life approach. A lot of time is spent (very successfully) setting up the world these vampires live in. Adam is living in an abandoned area of Detroit, surrounded by antique guitars and recording equipment…making a living by recording music but never showing his face in public. Eve is a book collector living in Tangier and a lover of knowledge. In their lifestyle, killing humans for blood (their nutrition) is out of the question (too many bodies, and they consider the human blood to be contaminated), so they rely on fellow vampires and unsuspecting humans to provide clean blood so they can survive. Director Jim Jarmusch goes out of his way to set up this world, which serves as the most realistic and down-to-earth vampire tale ever put together.
But it all works, and it works brilliantly. Their lifestyle and what they have to do to survive in the modern world is a major part of the story. All the classic elements of vampire-lore are there; consuming blood, awake during the day, sleeping at night…but underneath it all Jarmusch exposes a true love story. Adam and Eve have been lovers for untold centuries; inspiring famous authors and musicians while embracing every art form the world has to offer. Jarmusch offers a subtle commentary on love and life and what it means to be truly alive…so subtle you don’t realize it until it bites you from behind.

Jim Jarmusch has crafted an absolute hypnotic film. The music and set-pieces create a trance-like atmosphere, and it’s difficult to pull your eyes away from the screen. The home-dwellings of Adam and Eve are fascinating to look at as they are packed tight with antiques from every age. Aside from the great physical work being done, Jarmusch sneaks in plenty of allegory and metaphors…enough to fuel the longest of any late-night film debates.
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are perfection together. They both embrace their roles and really do feel like they have been lovers for a thousand years. The supporting cast is also excellent; Anton Yelchin and Jeffrey Wright play human characters who assist Adam with acquiring blood and antique instruments…unaware of his true nature. The great John Hurt is amazing as Eve’s fellow vampire and supplier, but the show is nearly stolen by Mia Wasikowska…who turns in a career-best as an old soul in a young body who has gone loose upstairs. She is a fascinating watch.

Aside from its approach, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE winds up being a very unique experience as it has that delicate balance between weird and fascinating, and despite being thin on the surface, there is ocean-deep meaning at every turn. This is a film which demands revisiting as there is a lot to take in one sitting, and that’s OK as it is always a joy to sink your teeth into exquisite filmmaking.

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