SXSW Film Review – Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive
Being out of the film festival stratosphere, I had never heard of Only Lovers Left Alive until it was announced as part of the SXSW Film Festival lineup. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play the main characters, and they are also vampires. Consider my interest piqued. Tilda Swinton was also in attendance at the screening, which meant it was even more worthwhile to attend and she discussed the background on the film and its production.
Only Lovers Left Alive comes from the mind of Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Dead Man) who also directed it. The story is of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). (There were muffled words and laughs when both characters names are revealed at my screening.) Eve is living in Tangiers, Morocco, and Adam is living in Detroit, Michigan. Married in 1868 and clearly soul mates, but living apart, Adam’s morose mood and depression forces Eve to visit him in dilapidated Detroit.
While the movie-going audience and film enthusiasts have reached their threshold and patience for vampire films, here comes another one. That is probably what every person going in to seeing it will be thinking. Quickly, that preconception disappears as Jarmusch created an edited vampire world that involves secrecy, bohemian sentiments, and characters with depth and wit. Originality: that is one word that should be associated with Only Lovers Left Alive. As soon as the film starts, you come to realize that this film is something special and should not be tossed away as another sub-par vampire film.
This is not a pure vampire lore film, but in all honesty, what is our standard for vampires? Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Anything that deviates from it is written off quite easily by most vampire lore lovers. Jarmusch stayed pretty close to the norms for vampires, but has added his own characteristics as well. There is no sparkling, animal blood, or daylight rings to speak of, but he has given them a modern touch, adapting them to the chaos and degradation of the present. Yes, there are fangs, the need for blood, only “living” in the dark, and something telltale about their vampire eyes. However, they have a need for pure blood; blood that does not have chemicals and impurities in it due to our human diet and environment. Pure blood is hard to come by and can be imported from France (Eve) or perhaps you have a monetary agreement with a doctor (Jeffrey Wright) who provides it to you (Adam). This is an ingenious addition that makes sense because of the world we live in now. Take some impure blood or suck some from your latest victim, and a vampire might receive some ill effects from it. Jarmusch also added the weird necessity to wear gloves when out in public, odd, ratty hair, and other clever characteristics not seen before.
The cast is small. Other than the aforementioned actors, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, and Mia Wasikowska are the only other major characters and they are only supporting roles. With only a small, central cast, it makes for character development at its best with each playing a necessary role. Swinton is marvelous and transcendent as Eve. Her height and the way she carries herself makes Eve even better, but that would be expected from a vampire who is as old as Eve is. Hiddleston exudes sex (even if it is morose) as he lazies about listening to records and making music with the musical instruments he collects. There is a clear vulnerability in him that heals partially when Eve shows up. The chemistry between Swinton and Hiddleston is great, just like the old married couple they depict. They play well off each other.
I have no doubt that when Only Lovers Left Alive hits theatres, it will right the wrongs of past vampire films. The film is a bit odd and has that indie film feeling to it, but this gives it a unique feeling. Had the film been made in the studio system, qualities that are to be admired in the film may have been lost. Like other indie films, this may be another film that will not get the audience it deserves. The film and the characters Adam and Eve is the only film of late that I would love to see continue on. Jim Jarmusch created a lovely film with both comedy and drama and a strong musical influence. I tip my sherry glass to him.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycOKvWrwYFo&w=560&h=315]