In the age of teenage vampire movies, getting one that explores the concept intelligently was always going to be rare, but luckily we’ve got Jim Jarmusch for those moments and his latest film ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, sets out to do just that. Jarmusch’s vampires are very different to those of today’s popular culture, affected in different ways by their time in the world and decidedly isolationist, this film becomes a tale of endurance, whether it’s the main characters’ enduring love or their struggles with their enduring lives.
Swathed in atmosphere thanks to wonderful cinematography by Yorick Le Saux, the level of performance is equally high, with both Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton feeding off the dripping aesthetic in different ways as their characters’ differences begin to show. Hiddleston is dryly humorous throughout, his character Adam’s hatred for the new world in which he lives shining through as he disparagingly calls humans ‘zombies’ and despairs that they’re messing everything that was once great up. He is offset by Swinton, whose Eve has not fallen to the same level of despair with the world, and it is their interactions that make the film. The dialogue is wonderfully written by Jarmusch and feels very real as they discuss the trivial like chess and contemplate their lives and the people they’ve met over their great lifespans, all of which engages us with the characters even more.
Anton Yelchin, John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska all do great jobs as supporting characters, bringing with them a wonderful mixture of intense, ridiculous and serious that allows the plot, which in typical Jarmusch style moves deliberately, to facilitate further interactions between Hiddleston and Swinton and provide them with bases around which they can discuss and deliberate their plight in the modern age.
As a result of Jarmusch’s intricate direction and quietly brilliant script, the film is everything you’d want it to be. Just as touching as it is wryly amusing, with hints of both tragedy and a distinct sense of existential vampirical angst that is a welcome new take on the whole genre, it definitely revels in its originality. The fact that no wolves are battled with, no people are really terrorised and vampires aren’t made out to be creatures that are substantially separate from normal humans but rather are shown to have a lot of the same problems, even if they have their own twists on them, means that even though nothing on the epic scale that we might be used to when we hear vampires are involved happens, the exploration of their lives on a smaller scale is exactly what we need. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is a wonderful love story with a twist, and its almost satirical take on vampires is welcome at a time when they’re wont to sparkle at us and look upset at werewolves with abs the size of a small country. A quiet, unassuming gem.
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