MoviefiedNYC Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Between The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Twilight, vampires have completely flooded our screens in recent years. Sparkly skin, pointy fangs, and aversions to garlic have become popular tropes in our daily TV and movie viewing. Despite this, Jim Jarmusch has made yet another vamp-drama by the name of Only Lovers Left Alive, and I for one, am thrilled. Yes, it’s another vampire movie. Yes, they are very pale and old and romantic. Yes, it is very much full of cliches and stereotypes. However, it is also wickedly smart, beautifully shot, filled to the brim with talent and full of cultural witticisms.

Only Lovers Left Alive is brought to life (or back to life) by the wonderful Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston who play eternal lovers Adam and Eve. The two reunite after apparent years of separation when Adam becomes suicidal after seeing the state of humanity. What I appreciated most about this film was its lack of explanation. Why were the two apart to begin with? How long have they been together? Are they THE Adam and Eve? We don’t know. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. This is not a plot that will be spoon fed to the audience by its makers. Jarmusch tells us all we need to know without doubting our intelligence. He allows us to fall into the depths of the film without worrying about a perfectly neat beginning, middle and end. He even stops his characters from following tedious and predictable patterns, because after all, they’re too old for that.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play the parts of vampires beautifully. They are intelligent, cultured, brilliantly snobbish and deeply in love with one another. They do not fawn over each other while whispering sweet nothings, instead, they have a long standing love. It is a love that values respect and honesty, it thrives on quiet intimacy, and involves loving the terrible things that the other one possesses. They are animalistic and ancient, they know everything there is to know about the world, and they always seem to hold onto an ingrained sense of peace. Hysteria is for the living. Nothing phases these two anymore but this does not stop Eve from loving the little moments of life such as dancing, reading, listening to music and ingesting blood in all sorts of inventive ways. In the end, this is a love story to humanity, despite their fuck-ups.

This is a movie for film lovers and pop culture enthusiasts. It is a vampire film that takes advantage of its time span; cultural references dating back hundreds of years can be found at every corner. Hints of Darwinian science, German expressionism, American rock and roll and English literature can be found in every scene. Eve has a love of books from every era and continent while Adam overshadows the likes of Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles with his knowledge and talent for music. The world is their oyster and Jim Jarmusch makes use of this by transporting them from the seemingly ancient world of Tangier to the rock and roll haven of Detroit.

Despite all this, Mia Wasikowska does a fantastic job of making these two God-like, cultural, scientific geniuses look like two old snobs with too much time on their hands as she plays the young, adventurous, and petulant daughter-type role. She causes chaos and fun wherever she goes and it is left to Adam and Eve to clean up after her. Anton Yelchin makes an honorable appearance as the rock and roll kid with an awe-inspired respect for the mysterious Adam while John Hurt and Jeffery Wright also lend their wit and talent to the story.

Only Lovers Left Alive does not focus on blood and gore, it is not a thriller nor a horror, it doesn’t even truly focus on the world of vampires. Instead, Jarmusch studies the eternal, he explores the quiet, perhaps boring, every day life of a modern, intelligent and ancient being who has quite literally seen it all. The heavy, almost gothic, passages of time are filled with an apprehensive sense that anything could happen, and is offset by some fantastically deadpan humor. The slightly alien and timeless aesthetics of the film combined with the superbly haunting score puts the audience into a trance like state as they delve into the lives of the immortal. For 123 minutes the world is almost still; he is Adam and she is Eve, he is black while she is white, Yin and Yang have met and they are fantastically in love.

– Sinann Fetherston

(A)

Note: Jim Jarmusch and Tilda Swinton recently attended a press conference at the NYFF to discuss Only Lovers Left Alive and we were lucky enough to capture some of it on video! Check it out on our YouTube channel and don’t forget to Subscribe!

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