In a world where just about everything is available to anyone with an internet connection, is immortality really that much of a bad thing? Those of you who regularly browse around in search of interesting things to read, hear or watch, are generally victims of time constraint – the days are simply not long enough to experience all the cool shit there is to experienced. And as someone in their twenties who is living through the digital age while trying to fit a million things into twenty-four short hours, I’m solidly convinced that immortality would be ideal.
This isn’t meant in the sense of immunity to death, but rather a life continuing until such a time as you see fit – removing the process of aging from the equation of 21st century life would generate something that closely resembles freedom. At least that’s how it’s approached by Adam (Tom Hiddleston), the half-vampire, half-musician male lead of Jim Jarmusch’s latest film Only Lovers Left Alive. Essentially Burial with a guitar, Adam churns his way through his free-flowing life by collecting vintage Gibsons and anonymously recording music in his home studio.
He seems quite fine with not dying. His only woes are the ‘zombies’ (normal people) who fill him with misanthropic rage, and the distance between himself, who lives in Detroit, and Eve (Tilda Swinton), his wife of 150 years who’s currently residing in Tangier. Occasionally he does consider suicide, but after all, he’s a Romantic who accordingly falls into pits of intense narcissism. The pair are generally content with life in the grand scheme of things, which puts an interesting spin on a myth that is so commonly regarded as torture to those of whom it afflicts.
Given that this is a Jim Jarmusch movie, many of the regular tropes of the vampire subgenre are removed, most notably violence; it’s more of a day-in-the-life sketch of two multi-century old lovers, which makes it a refreshing novelty. Appropriately, the tone of the movie is rather relaxed and absorbing as a result, with a moody style that alleviates its reliance on gimmick. Its heavy use of chiaroscuro lighting and its menacing drone soundtrack create a rich, Gothic atmosphere, occasionally reprieved by the kind of deadpan humour that Jarmusch has become so renowned for.
It’s an interesting look at a myth that has been consistently recycled over the past 120+ years of fiction, especially where character construction is concerned. Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), turned at a young age and thus caught in perpetual immaturity, pays a visit to Detroit once Adam and Eve are reunited, much to Adam’s chagrin as he’s still angry at Ava for something she did 87 years prior.
On the opposite end of the human age scale is Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), the same guy who ‘influenced’ Shakespeare and who ‘died mysteriously’ just as the Bard began to rise to prominence. He provides the ‘good stuff,’ pure type O negative blood that saves Eve from having to drink from living humans – a dangerous act in Lovers‘ world, where men and women of the 21st century are so full of chemicals and diseases that their blood is usually contaminated and unsafe for vampire consumption.
It’s difficult to say how far Only Lovers Left Alive will invade the subculture of vampire fanatics given its gentley-paced, almost lucid narrative style and its lack of generosity towards gorehounds who come to the genre for the blood and the sex. It’s even more difficult to pair it with other vampire movies; it eludes comparison to Twilight just as easily as it does with Blade. But regardless of this, the characters of Adam and Eve are compelling creations that appear capable of becoming icons of, if not vampire cinema, independent cinema, and Only Lovers Left Alive has all the makings of a future cult favourite.
Only Lovers Left Alive was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, and stars Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt. It lasts for 122 minutes, and is a production of Recording Picture Company and Pandora Film. Distributed in the UK by Sony Pictures Classics.