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Review: Only Lovers Left Alive - A Pair of Glamorous Bloodsuckers

by Carlos Aguilar
April 10, 2014 9:00 PM
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Only Lovers Left Alive

Exotic trinkets and antique technology pave the rooms of a dimly lit apartment in desolated, almost-post-apocalyptic Detroit. Like a space transplanted from another era it is hard to tell what year it is by solely examining the objects, the colors, or the sounds that emanate from this place. Hiding in this crowded environment is Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a pale, long-haired, and lonely individual. He is melancholy personified. In the midst of all the mismatched artifacts the one common theme is music. One can presumably infer that playing with his instruments and recording devices is as close as Adam gets to happiness by himself. Thousands of miles away in exuberant Tangier, Morocco, resting in a similarly trendy abode lays Eve (Tilda Swinton), an elegant beauty hiding away in the heat of the dessert night. With a gorgeous spinning birds-eye-view shot director Jim Jarmusch introduces the two timeless protagonists of his darkly satirical, irreverently original, and ethereal film Only Lovers Left Alive.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston

Buzzing with nocturnal life the North African city seems like the perfect site for Eve to find her preferred elixir. The increasingly hard to find coveted liquid is provided by an ancient friend, Marlowe (played by John Hurt), a man who shares her eternal affliction. Back in the States, Adam hangs out with Ian (Anton Yelchin),his one and only companion/vendor. The young man provides the enigmatic musician with all sorts of rarities including unique instruments. He is Adam’s only connection to the modern world. In turn, Ian is a fan of the reclusive man’s work whose experimental tunes have become underground hits, which brings unwanted attention to his residence. But this trivial fame is irrelevant for Adam who is depressed. Desperate, he asks his provider for a special order: a bullet with a casing made out of wood.

At the end of his rope, the suicidal immortal creature attempts to make contact with the one only individual that can make him whole. Video chatting via an antique monitor Eva agrees to leave her solitude behind and join his lover in the rundown Midwestern town. Once reunited the pair of glamorous bloodsuckers make of Detroit a lugubrious paradise. Empty streets and darkness is just what they need to fell alive once more after centuries of putting up with human madness. Reminiscing on the people they’ve met, the many identities they’ve had, and the events they’ve witness, it becomes evident that vampires and wisdom are an obvious match. Who would know more about the world’s history than those who have taken part in it first hand?

Only Lovers Left Alive

Dealing with the “zombies”, as they refer to us mortals, has proven to be the most challenging aspect of their prolonged journey. Time has taught them to be civil, and to not run around feeding barbarically and endanger their perfectly elaborated covers. On the other hand, finding untainted blood has become an odyssey thanks to mankind’s irresponsible practices that poison the vital plasma. Nevertheless, they have endured. Together now, Adam and Eve can dance, and kiss, and enjoy biohazard-friendly lollipops under the moon. Unfortunately their peacefully morbid haven is ruined when Eva’s reckless sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) comes to visit. She is thirsty, and to makes matters worse she comes from the most “zombified” place of them all: Los Angeles. This terrifying encounter will prove risky and soon will compromise their survival. 

Readers will have to excuse the heavy dose of plot included in this review, but with a film as intoxicating as this, it is hard not to get lost in the stylistic and brilliant story elements of it. Swinton and Hiddleston’s pairing is heavenly, or in this case, perfectly under-worldly. There is not a single false note in their glorious performances as tortured souls, whose heartwarming love prevails above the burden of endless life. What could have become a cheese parody is elevated to a strange level of greatness reserved only for cult-classics that can stand the test of time. Jarmusch’s film is exceptional, his blend of retro music, vintage wardrobe, blissful production design, and exquisite cinematography create an otherworldly atmosphere that is at once suspenseful and sensual. 

Appreciating humanity as seen through the bloodshot eyes of these characters creates a marvelous premise. It is executed with the exact tone it required to be funny and inquisitive about a legendary creatures that have plagued storytelling for ages. His film vindicates vampires and reclaims them as graceful, complex, and cultured beings, rather than vehicle for teenage fantasies. Admitting that Only Lovers Left Alive merits multiple viewings is easy, because it simply the most intelligent movie ever made about the eternally intriguing and mystical nightwalkers with fangs. 

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