Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
  • Time: 123 min
  • Genre: Drama | Horror | Romance
  • Director: Jim Jarmusch
  • Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt


Adam (Tom Hiddleston), an underground musician reunites with his lover for centuries (Tilda Swinton) after he becomes depressed and tired with the direction human society has taken. Their love is interrupted and tested by her wild and uncontrollable little sister (Mia Wasikowska).

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  • Jim Jarmusch’s vampires in the world he creates in Only Lovers Left Alive are, in essence, him doing a movie review on the quality of vampire movies of the past several years. Twilight? Screw that. Maybe a little closer is Let Me In/Let the Right One In. But it needs something else… music, rock music, moody rock music at that with instruments played at erratic intervals and blood that is not sucked dry out of unwilling human hosts. No, that could be too risky. Instead, blood comes from a hospital and in vials. They are lovers, but can the love last as the world – this wasteland of Detroit, Michigan – has not much left to offer in way of culture and arts and fulfillment?

    Only Tom Hiddleston could have pulled off such a character as he and Jarmusch create here, which is much less Loki from the Marvel movies and more like Morpheus from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: clad in black, easily perturbed but hard to fully anger, his hair also black and frumped over, and his domain small but intensely private for him. Yeah yeah yeah he’s a vampire with musical cred, but he looks just like Gaimans creation. And yet amid this intentional or not homage, he finds the way to play the straight man in certain scenes, or to find some way to convey humor as, for example, he plays a violin with his foot.

    This movie he inhabits and also featuring Tilda Swinton as one of the sweetest vampires on screen to balance Hiddleston’s bitter side, is a splendid work of meta-movie-making. Though they rarely raise their voices so high, and the high-point of excitement is (no kidding) finding Jack White’s house and staring at it at night, they have a wonderful chemistry that just has a natural air to it, as characters bound for centuries and they know each other well – perhaps, at times, too well.

    And being shot in Detroit, and featuring a main threat as “contaminated blood” (not to be confused with true blood), it’s socially conscious and aware. The misanthropy is conducive to these folks being total outsiders looking on to a world full of “zombies”. Sometimes, as with Mia Wasikowskas “sister” – perhaps even more pointed as criticism of what a young vampire would be like for Jarmusch’s dry comedy – is very funny. And of course it’s full of Jarmuschs self conscious humor and nods to history – when hiddleston goes as a doctor to get blood he is Dr Faust, also Dr Strangelove and Dr Caligari.

    And where would a vampire story be without some obvious winks to history (from the real author of Shakespeare’s plays in John Hurt to who really added Schuberts addiagos). If there’s a problem here, and I think there is, it feels a little cold and aimless in spots; I suppose that’s maybe the point, or part of it. These are people in a hermetically sealed world, but they’re never uninteresting, they’re cool and blackly stylish, and its all like a big eff-you to the commercialism that’s taken out the eerie and Gothic and, indeed, romance of vampire horror, and this is not only welcome but a sign of a director trying something new and mostly succeeding in sustaining that mood.

    If it’s not one of Jarmuschs best, it’s still a worthwhile subversion of genre, with a nothing-less-than-cool soundtrack of muddy guitars and bluesy riffs, and if you’re looking also for something hardcore like lots of biting of necks look elsewhere too. These blood drinkers only bite on occasion. It’s all shot at night, which makes it further a unique diddy; whether you want to take the plunge of course will depend on some familiarity with his past work. 8.5/10

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