Director: Jim Jarmusch
For a long time now, coolness had been wrested from the bloodless hands of vampires. Gary Oldman’s Dracula downgraded to sparkly Mormon cipher emo teens in Twilight and associated vampire films and series. Finally though, in Only Lovers Left Alive, Director Jim Jarmusch has put the world of the vampire back in its proper place, as creatures that drift on the edge human existence, prompting by their presence the great questions of time and immortality, of how to find and keep meaning in the world.
The film follows two biblically named vampire lovers Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) in a snapshot of time as they move through the world, separated from the rise and fall of human existence by their alien longevity and need for blood. The film is also a beautiful ode to two very different cities, Detroit and Tangiers. Adam’s city, Detroit is shot in a cool blue and grey range of colours highlighting the urban decay and abandonment that struck the steel city post US recession. Tangiers, by contrast, is drenched in amber and gold as Eve moves through her city she is washed in warm colours from lanterns even in the middle of the night the city seems drenched in sunlight.
The contrast is further highlighted by the superlative soundtrack which is worth buying on its own atmospheric merits (in vinyl it is beautifully packaged in a two record set: One for Detroit, one for Tangiers both in, of course, blood red vinyl. The soundtrack composed by Squrl – Jim’s own band and Josef Van Wissum a Dutch composer and lute player (who won the Cannes Soundtrack Award for Only Lovers Left Alive at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival). The music reflects the cities character, dark droning guitars and sublime lutes throughout.
On that note, Adam is a reclusive musician who has played instruments down through the ages, the opening scene will have music aficionados drooling as Adam trails his hands over a selection of some the best electric guitars made.
Tilda (who I am now convinced could be a vampire as she is so utterly, beautifully different) and Tom (who is equal to Tilda’s Eve, even though there is the slightest touch of a rehashed Loki about Adam) are ably supported by John Hurt, whose character is a wonderful version of Christopher Marlowe (neatly explaining all those Shakespearean conspiracies) and Mia Wasikowska as Ava the more volatile, more connected to desire, ‘sister’ to Eve. The thought provoking theme throughout is the nature of time and experience. The vampires casually use Latin phrases to describe their worlds – English is too transient for them, Eve the older is still infused with the wonders of the world around her, still open to be surprised and still hungry metaphorically and literally for the world she inhabits.
Adam by contrast, is brought down by the seeming inability for humans to advance, their disregard for genius when it blooms amongst them, and their thuggish disregard for the earth and their distasteful advances. His dislike has bloomed into a dangerous ennui. It is this danger that brings the two lovers together again.Throughout the film their immortality is portrayed in subtle difference, in set design, and in speech and action, but along with that is their delicate balance for survival – quietly desperate for the small amounts of ‘premium’ blood they have gained from their rarefied sources. In drinking they spin (like the 45 records Adam plays) into a sensuous fugue. The languorous pace of the film invites you to do the same, an invitation to abandon self and drift through these distinctly different lives. Only Lovers Left Alive is a welcome addition and antidote to the recent and shallow interpretations of such a long lived myth.
Available on dvd and blue ray
Traveling at Night with Jim Jarmusch – A portrait of Director Jim Jarmusch at work on the set
Deleted & Extended Scenes
Yasmine Hamdan’s ‘Hal’ Music Video