By Will Barber Taylor
Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the modern direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
Like many films that focus on vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive is a mixture of dark realism and brilliant comedy. Humour, after all can be derived from some of the most unnerving of subject matters and as we all know, many of Hammer’s vamperic efforts are liable to be humorous. Yet, rather than this being the after effect of some rather dodgy film making decisions in Only Lovers Left Alive this is done with skillful deliberation. Jim Jarmusch’s vision of a world populated by vampires who, rather than wear silk and leap out at unsuspecting cockney actors, prefer to live their life as they want. Jarmusch transforms the creatures of the night into funny and relatable characters, who, rather than staked through the heart, we want to see enjoy their lives.
Focussing on reclusive musician and vampire Adam (Tom Hiddlestone) and his former lover Eve (Tilda Swintone), the film artfully captures the underground world Jarmusch has created for his creatures of the night. His slow and steady direction of the film creates a languid and seductive pace, reminiscent of an art film from the late 70s; everything is filmed as if it is slowing seeping from the mind of one of the main characters after they have taken their latest dose of fresh blood.
Hiddlestone gives Adam a subtle and playful sense of humour. He is not an emotionless analogue of a previous era but a dynamic and exciting character. Jarmusch’s writing and Hiddlestone’s performance create the perfect combination of a world-weary creature and a thriving musician. This perfectly balanced mix makes the character and the film entertaining and engaging.
Equally, Tilda Swinton’s enigmatic Eve is an excellent example of the exotic and mysterious woman associated with certain Hammer films. Yet, she is far more than a clichéd “inscrutable woman”; her affection for Hiddlestone’s character is palpable from their first scene together and her desire to make more of her vampire self and the vampire community as a whole adds a further dimension to her. Her initial scene with John Hurt’s Christopher Marlowe is particularly well done with Jarmusch’s witty dialogue lightening what otherwise would be a grim transaction of horrific goods.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a wonderful noir comedy film, filled with some breath-taking scenery, wonderful acting for the cast and a seductively charismatic script that makes you want to suck the film dry of all its wonderful wit.
With thanks to We Are Colony. You can purchase Only Lovers Left Alive here.