"“A striking piece that could well earn a cult following...”"
We've seen a plethora of vampire films in recent years, with the Twilight franchise popularising the mythology, bringing it back triumphantly to a mainstream audience. However there have been none quite so imaginative as Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which comes with a degree of ingenuity, almost satirising the genre, yet doing so in a unique and intelligent way.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are vampire lovers who have been romantically entwined for centuries. However when the latter leaves Morocco to visit Adam in Detroit, she finds a gloomy man, at a loss in regards to modern humanity, questioning his entire existence as a locked away, introverted musician. As the pair feed their addiction and lust for blood with various trips to their local, underground dealer (Jeffrey Wright), they find themselves being put to the test with the arrival of Eve's younger, disobedient sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska).
Where Only Lovers Left Alive excels, is within the mundane portrayal of vampires, picking up on their everyday sensibilities, making for a persistent source of comedy, as both Adam and Eve are humanised effectively. Their pasts are anything but mundane, however, with a variety of name drops and references to important, historical figures. It seems our protagonists were friends with everyone and anyone, including the likes of William Shakespeare himself. It gets into Bill & Ted territory in that respect, and though ultimately it's somewhat frivolous, it's a film about vampires, so, you know, realism is hardly a virtue. You're half expecting Alice Cooper to turn up and play himself. It's that kind of a movie.
The decision to make Adam something of a rock star is a stroke of genius, while his guitar case is effectively symbolic of a coffin – showing off Jarmusch's ability in bringing these dark, supernatural traits and making them seem so ordinary. Jarmusch evidently has his tongue in his cheek throughout also, which is essential in making this brooding piece work. It doesn't ever take itself too seriously and benefits greatly as a result. All the while, the witty, satirical edge works well against the dark, bleak aesthetic.
The casting is spot on too – you wouldn't want anybody else in either of those two lead roles, while there are supporting performances from both John Hurt and Anton Yelchin, who impress, respectively. Our leading pair just ooze coolness too, and as soon as Hiddleston puts on his dark shades, he represents something of a cinematic icon, and the whole look of this film and the music selected makes for a striking piece that could well earn a cult following. It's somewhat contrived and a bit up itself at times, but hey, it works.
Only Lovers Left Alive manages to be unique and yet remains formulaic, and faithful to the tradition and folklore of vampires – a real testament to Jarmusch's directing credentials. To see our protagonists go from blood sucking barbarians, to casually flicking around on their iPhones is enlightening and compelling. Vampires have got to tweet too, you know.