Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

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When you're a vampire, there's nothing better than leaning on a wall looking melancholic.
When you’re a vampire, there’s nothing better than leaning on a wall looking melancholic.

Twitter Plot Summary: A love story between two ancient vampires and the near-constant existential crisis they face every day.

Five Point Summary:

1. Vampire films always have an obligatory scene where someone cuts their finger.
2. What if Christopher Marlowe really did write Hamlet?
3. Too many literal references may make you look like a pretentious fool.
4. Shots of blood and blood lollipops look fun. If you’re a vampire. Or like blood.
5. Is it possible to cast two more perfect vampires than Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston?

If you had the opportunity to cast anybody as a vampire then where would you place Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston on that list? Ignoring the fact Hiddleston is a hot property following his multiple appearances as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both he and Swinton just look the part and it’s surprising that they haven’t been called up for vampire duties before now. Ignoring the obvious religious aspects of their character names, because apparently that was unintentional, she’s called Eve and has moved with the times (she uses an iPhone to FaceTime him, Adam, from her current residence in Tangier), whilst he’s a depressed musician clinging to the past and using a vast array of older, analogue technologies – his side of the FaceTime conversation is completed using an old CRT screen and what looks like a dial-up connection to the internet.

Directed with some funky verve by Jim Jarmusch, darling of the wry indie movie scene, the film charts the relationship between two ancient vampires – the aforementioned Swinton and Hiddleston – who must contend with many existential concerns including the arrival of her younger sister, rock fans and life eternal. Within the story questions are asked about what a person would do if they could live forever, and more importantly what you need to do to avoid boredom and getting stuck in a rut, finding and defining your reasons for waking up every day. Or rather, night. Eve, through her continued use of modern technology, is happy to move with the times and enjoy each new experience as they occur. Adam meanwhile has tried his hand at being a musician and is now depressed and bored, having seemingly burnt out on new experiences some time previously and is now in a permanent state of atrophy when we first meet him.

Yup, she was teething again.
Yup, she was teething again.

There’s a darkly comic edge to the script, not afraid to have a bit of fun with things like making note of the fact a vampire has no need for a toilet, or how vampires survive on blood without actually killing anybody, because drinking directly from a living person has an air of the 15th century about it, darling. There’s also some rather enjoyable literary references for those aware of the works of Christopher Marlowe in particular, and John Hurt even shows up as the author who, it turns out, was responsible for some quite important works of literature other than those already attributed to him.

Jarmusch manages to capture the essence of what drinking blood is like for vampires, an almost drug-like ecstasy befalling them with each sip. The vampire attitude towards regular humans – they call them zombies – is a wry piece of observation, and also a point that directly affects our diffident undead lovers – clean blood sources are running out thanks to humans contaminating everything, including now their own blood. Whilst we see little in terms of the wider vampire culture, this is no doubt a pressing concern for their species and causes its own set of problems in addition to their usual aversion to sunlight.

It’s clearly a film that’s a little too out there in its indie sensibilities for a mass audience to appreciate, more so because there’s no action and it’s very deliberately paced, but if you look beyond this there’s a fun take on the vampire genre awaiting you.

Score: 4/5

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