NYFF: Jim Jarmusch & Tilda Swinton Talk The Vampire Romance Of ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

Festivals
by Edward Davis
October 14, 2013 3:03 PM
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Jarmsuch shared what he added to vampire mythology.
“Mythology in vampire films is a cumulative thing. For example, having fangs only appeared in a Mexican vampire film in the 1950s. It's a very recent [phenomomenon]. I don't recall that Nosferatu had fangs but all of these things get added in like garlic or you must be invited in over the threshold or the cross or the holy water," he explained. "All these things get added in arbitrarily by certain authors who chose this form. So we wanted to add something in there so we added in these leather gloves that they wear outside of their habitat. Why? Because we wanted to have something that was ours that we invented and we thought that it looked really cool which is an important criteria.”

"I have to listen to a film and let it tell me what it wants. We'd cut certain scenes and the film was so much happier."

Jarmusch described the differences between his vampire film and vampire horror films.
“When vampire films are really in the genre of horror films that claustrophobia is very helpful, Being scary or feeling uneasy. Vampires sleeping in a confined coffin, not being able to be touched by sunlight becomes very claustrophobic," Jarmusch said. "This is a film of openness. Openness to ideas, to culture, to surroundings, to ones own consciousness. So I think maybe not so consciously on our parts but the film stylistically reflects that rather than claustrophobia.”

Instinct versus intellect.
“Intellect is very valuable, but instinct is something more, I pay more attention to," Jarmusch reflected. "I think you can over analyze things...but I really think instinct and using your intuition is extremely important. While in the editing room… it's not not a formulaic procedure like a Hitchcock film which are fantastic for what they are but everything's decided and enhanced with a little machine, to function like a Hitchcock-like film.”

“[My films are made] where the shape of the machine may not be completely visible until the end, until it's cut," he elaborated. "I feel like I have to listen to a film and let it tell me what it wants. Often sometimes it mumbles and is not very distinct and is not telling you yet. I have like a thirty minute outtake reel of beautiful scenes [that I cut from the film] and I kept removing certain scenes that I deeply loved and I didn't want to. We'd take [certain scenes] out and the film was so much happier. I really think the instinct is listening to the film that you're making and letting it be what it is. Oddly enough that's the theme I love in the film – it’s that Adam and Eve allow each other to be who they are. They’re not trying to change each other or whining about things. She accepts who he is and he also loves her for who she is and I think maybe that's the key to love stories.”

How the more impish and playful Ava—played by Mia Wasikowska -- acted as a counterpoint to Adam and Eve’s “snobbery.”
“She's playful, she's a little dangerous, she's... I wouldn't say naive at all but less sophisticated maybe than Adam and Eve," Jarmusch observed. "I think it's very important to me when she calls them snobs. They are snobs in a way. But than again if you live for 1000 years and saw humanity devolving you might be a little snobbish as well. But she's very important as a counter to them and as a younger spirit too. She doesn't obey and she acts like a little child running and jumping.”

Jarmusch laments the use of music in cinema.
“I'm always shocked by the limited range of musical styles used in cinema. Especially in American films, especially commercial Hollywood films it seems like they just buy the music by the yard. It seems like they use the same five scores over and over and over again," the director said. "When you see what kind of music is available all around this planet it's very strange to me what's in these pieces it's often very limited. Some great non-American films and American films use great music but still it seems like not as wide a range that could maybe make them stronger.”

Jarmusch wrote the film for Tilda Swinton who was an unwavering force in getting it made.
“Whenever this production would fall apart or we would lose financing or another element, I'd just be ready to give up," Jarmusch revealed. "And Tilda would invariably say, 'No, this is a good sign, this means we're not ready yet, all the pieces aren't in place yet.’ She was always so optimistic and reflecting in a way of Eve, the kind of spirit of Eve that I could not give up this project. So I'm so indebted [to my producers and Tilda] and of course everyone has stuck by the film but the two of them were there from the beginning and also John Hurt. He always said, ‘Just tell me what you're shooting and I'll be there,’ so he was also very supportive all along but Tilda was crucial. - Reporting by Rodrigo Perez

“Only Lovers Left Alive” will hit theaters in the spring of 2014. Check out some new images below and an interview with German television. And if you're desperate to see more, at the very bottom a some new footage from the film that hasn't been seen before, but most of it is dubbed over in German.

Browse through all our coverage of the 2013 New York Film Festival by clicking here.

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