Release Date: 21st February 2014
Run time: 123 minutes
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt
Only Lovers Left Alive may feature ashen faced immortals who feed on human blood, but it’s not really what you’d call a vampire movie. These creatures of the night would rather reflect on art and science than go around ripping open jugulars. Frankly, after centuries of living, they’re all a little too grown up for that sort of thing. This may not be a horror picture but with it’s languid pace, detached eye and emphasis on mood over plot, it’s a quintessential Jim Jarmusch film.
Adam, a gaunt cheeked and hollow-eyed Tom Hiddleston, is in a suicidal funk. Shunning virtually all contact with the outside world and moping about in his house-cum-studio he’s completely disillusioned with the world. Over centuries of living he has been let down and disappointed time and again and now regards humanity with utter disdain. While his livelier, more upbeat wife Eve (Tilda Swinton) gads about in Tangier, Adam mostly just plays music and entertains romantic fantasies of suicide in Detroit. Until Eve realises how depressed Adam has become and rushes back to see him it’s a little like a vampire version of Gus Van Sant’s Last Days.
Like Michael Pitt’s character in Last Days, Adam and Eve go through their life in a bit of a haze. Indeed, their total isolation from society and dependence on necking a shot of Type O Negative to keep themselves straight closely resembles heroin addiction. There’s a woozy quality to the photography; overhead shots spiral in towards characters, which along with the use of slow motion and droning guitar adds to the air of intoxication that pervades this film. Story complications drift on by but the central couple always appear to be outside of any plot machinations. These centuries old creatures live with a history that only they and their kind can understand and Only Lovers Left Alive seems primarily concerned with exploring the nature of immortality.
While both Adam and Eve are nostalgic for the past as evidenced by the way they talk about their lives, Adam’s relationship with the past is more melancholic, his inability to move forward shown by his hoarding of antique musical instruments. His long life has left him cold and embittered, years of frustration calcifying him to the world. Eve on the other hand is enriched by her experience and still thirsty for knowledge. While Adam lives in Detroit: a dilapidated city emblematic of failed American industry and a shrine to run-down glamour, Eve prefers Tangier: a culturally rich and diverse city teeming with life.
It might be a bit slow for some people but Only Lovers Left Alive brilliantly captures a mood of decadent decay. It’s likely that many people will go to see this film either because it stars Tom Hiddleston or because it’s another entry into the insanely popular vampire genre. In an ideal world some of those people might now go and see something in future because it’s a Jim Jarmusch film.