Hiddleston and Swinton share eternal love in Only Lovers Left Alive
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton star in Jim Jarmusch’s new vampire tale ‘Only Lovers Left Alive,’ proving that love is indeed eternal.
I always thought being a vampire would just be so glamorous. Sleep all day, play all night, change into a bat or a wolf or even smoke, and of course eternal life … provided no one put a wooden stake through your heart while you slept.
But after seeing Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive, you get a sense that the life (or afterlife) of a vampire is a rather solitary, solemn way to exist. In the film, we’re introduced to three individuals: Adam (Tom Hiddleston), Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who is, in fact, THE Marlowe who was a contemporary (and definitely not an admirer) of Shakespeare.
Eve and Marlowe are in Tangiers and Adam is in Detroit. Turns out Adam and Eve are married, but he insists on living in the desolate city so he can create music and remain in a completely solitary existence save for his own Renfield, Ian (Anton Yelchin), a go-fer and confidant who gets Adam a wide range of exquisite musical instruments and other odd items like a specific type of wooden bullet.
Eve senses something is wrong with Adam and makes the trip to Detroit and life seems grand again … until Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) shows up and turns their world, if not upside-down, slightly askew. There are a couple of peripheral characters, notably Jeffrey Wright’s Dr. Watson, who supplies Adam with the purest Type-O Negative blood around. (Adam’s cheeky disguise when visiting the hospital for his blood delivery is Dr. Faust, a nod to Marlowe.)
Way back in 1983, director Tony Scott gave us a glamorous worldview of the undead with The Hunger, and I can almost see Only Lovers Left Alive as a sort of relative to that film, especially when Adam tells Eve he never sees “the others.” Whereas Scott’s vampires, headed by Catherine Deneuve’s Miriam Blaylock, lived in a high-fashion world interacting with mortals, Jarmusch’s vamps prefer to set themselves apart from the “zombies,” as they refer to humans, not even bothering to feed on them anymore because of the level of contaminants in their blood. It really is the flip-side of The Hunger.
As with most Jarmusch films, it’s not so much the story that drives to movie but the characters. Only Lovers Left Alive really doesn’t have a beginning, middle and end in the traditional sense, preferring to plop us down right in the middle of these creatures’s lives. We never really understand Adam’s melancholy or why he and Eve live separate lives when they’re so obviously in love (if anything, the film really is a love story). We know Adam has been around longer than Eve (so they’re not the Biblical Adam and Eve), but other details are scarce. It’s more of a “day in the life” story than a complete narrative.
I’ve only seen a couple of Jarmusch’s movies, but I love them both. Only Lovers Left Alive may not have the humor of Stranger Than Paradise or the whimsy of Mystery Train, but there is something haunting about the movie that you may not experience while watching it, but it will certainly stay with you long after the credits roll thanks to Jarmusch’s skill as a filmmaker and the terrific, understated performances of Hiddleston and Swinton and their great final shot.
The new Blu-ray release from Sony Pictures Classics presents the film in a beautiful transfer, preserving the sickly yellowish hues of cinematographer Yorick Le Saux as well as the deep, inky blacks of shadows and nighttime in Detroit. Music, as in most Jarmusch films, plays a huge role in the film and the score by Jozef van Wissem and SQÜRL is also well represented by the disc’s DTS-HD Master Audio. The Blu-ray is truly a visual and aural feast.
Bonus material includes Travelling at Night with Jim Jarmusch, a lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary that puts you right in the middle of the shooting of the movie albeit without any narration or real insight (sort of how the movie drops into the middle of the story), Deleted and Extended Scenes (including a moment when Adam is hit by a ray of sunlight, and another where he compares himself to Gomez Addams), and a Yasmine Hamdan music video (Hamdan is featured in one of the film’s final scenes in Tangiers). Unfortunately, there is no audio commentary which would have been an interesting insight into the characters and the filmmaking experience.
Only Lovers Left Alive may not be a vampire movie for everyone, but fans of Jarmusch, Hiddleston and Swinton (and The Hunger) should find plenty to savor almost as much as the vampires savor their Type-O Negative.