ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
In the desolation of modern Detroit and Tangiers, underground musician Adam (Tom Hiddleston) in Detroit, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover, Eve (Tilda Swinton) in Tangiers. Their love story has already endured several centuries, but their idyll is disrupted by Eve's wild and uncontrollable younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska). Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
Review by Louise Keller:
As fascinating as it is bizarre and tedious, Jim Jarmusch's eclectic reality in which two vampires bound to each other through eternity, is a powerful magnet. Jarmusch's vision is wildly different from any other vampire story and its two central characters of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) - located in Detroit and Tangier respectively - are bohemian sophisticates, restrained in their urges. They are erudites, reminiscing about the ages gone by and it almost feels like a case of unique name dropping as they recall their famous poet, musician and scientist friends.
It is impossible not to have an opinion about this film. It begins and ends with a dramatic and unforgettable bang. What happens in the middle is like riding the wave of a crescendo before falling down the slopes of a decrescendo, and at times the film, like its immortal characters, feels as though it will never end. As a complete work, it is not entirely successful but the mood created and the clever, often inspired ideas that are meshed together are nothing short of brilliant.
The film begins slowly, allowing us to enter and absorb the 21st reality in which Adam and Eve now find themselves. Adam (in Detroit) is surrounded by 50s and 60s guitars and musical instruments and is described by John Hurt's flamboyant Marlowe (in Tangier) to Eve, to be a 'suicidally romantic scoundrel'. There is discordant, tuneless music that wails and screeches in the background. It jars. Adam is quick to bring out large wads of cash to pay for the services of the zombie humans (Anton Yelchin) and a medical man (Jeffrey Wright). The fact that Eve wants to book the night flight from Tangier to Detroit, ensuring she arrives at her destination before the sun rises, is done so dryly, playing with delicious black humour.
I chuckled when Eve brings O negative iceblocks from the fridge for refreshments, while Adam carries a silver flask containing 'the good stuff'. Even vampires are not exempt from modern threats and dangers - good, non contaminated blood is hard to find these days. I like the scene when playing chess together, Eve urges Adam to tattle tale about his poet friend Byron, a former 17th century chess partner.
Mia Wasikowska appears as Eve's younger sister - or at least a blood relative - delivering a stand-out turn as a wild, out of control vampire unable to control her urges. The way Adam and Eve have to surreptitiously dispose of a body as a result is very funny.
The film is long and is definitely not for everyone. Some may be totally bored by its lack of traditional exposition and emphasis on its reality rather than action. But Jarmusch gifts us indelible imagery and mood and is a fascinating work - even if you don't love it all.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Struggling with a world that's askew and in decay, Jim Jarmusch pours his heart into a movie we'd never expect from him, about vampires. But it's not really a vampire movie, and there's scant neck biting; this is the 21st century, as Eve (Tilda Swinton) reminds us, although her wild-child sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) is not that time conscious.
Both these women and a transformed Tom Hiddleston as Adam are excellent in delivering character, even though they move around in a dramatic vacuum.
There are some wonderfully offbeat, inventive and appealingly black ideas - and touches of black humour - while the overall tone is downbeat, melancholy, as if the world as they know it was tapering off. Which it is.
It's not so much a story as an observation of a hypothetical contemporary world in which vampires might live. John Hurt, for example, plays Christopher Marlow as a gay vampire who still scribbles, and Jarmusch has fun with the possibilities, cheekily mocking Shakespeare. There are references to other artistic greats, some of which come off as merely clever in-jokes. For reasons not explained, Adam and Eve live in Detroit and Tangiers respectively, which gives Jarmusch tangible contrasts in both physical settings and cultural ones. Adam's lair is a desolate house on the outskirts of a deserted city; Eve's digs are exotic and hidden through narrow laneways, ancient arches, old stones, and a few men standing around ever ready to offer all passers by 'something special for you'.
Jarmusch delights in showing us the places through his eyes, like a guide with an agenda.
Eve, rather reluctantly since 'travel frizzles you', joins the depressed Adam in Detroit, where Adam has been acquiring old string instruments (he plays guitar) from a young zombie. Zombies is what they call ordinary humans, and in a sneering reference, Los Angeles is zombie capital. That tells us where Jarmusch's agenda is.
Once together, the love birds share elegant little glasses of the expensive type O negative blood acquired through a medical researcher (Geoffrey Wright) and play music, tell stories, play chess.
For all the playful elements, Jarmusch forgets to keep a dramatic tension in place and some of the material is plain silly, internally inconsistent (they've been together centuries, yet they don't seem to know everything about each other), or contrived.
On the other hand, the production design is sensational, as is the lighting and cinematography; the music is varied, a little bit of it reminiscent of Neil Young's sparse guitar score for the wonderful black and white Jarmusch drama, Dead Man (1995). The final metaphor posits that today's world has sucked the life blood of even these ancient, wise, caring individuals, who have to resort to desperate, discredited measure just to survive.
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ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (M)
CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi, Carter Logan
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas, Reinhard Brundig
DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch
SCRIPT: Jim Jarmusch
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yorick Le Saux
EDITOR: Alfonso Gonçalves
MUSIC: Jozef van Wissem
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marco Bittner Rosser
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 17, 2014