Director and writer Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a peculiar film regarding vampirism. And, as it most commonly is when submitting oneself to a piece from Jarmusch’s body of work, it’s a tough beast to tame. It tackles all the vampiric themes one would expect, undying love, an unquenchable thirst for healthy vitals, eternal existence, and so on. Yet, it’s the fresh, atypical, achromatic reality he brings to the sub-genre that sets “Only Lovers Left Alive” apart from the pack. Jarmusch manages to create and capture these blood-sucker trademarks with such a genuine, almost non-fictional authenticity that the ideal of a vampire transcends the fantastical realm into our own.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” is subtle, self-referential, inter-textual, allusive, and most importantly, intelligent. Exploding with an entrancing musical score, gloomy visuals, and an engulfing atmosphere. But perhaps what’s most surprising is the dark, sly, morbid sense of humour present throughout the film’s runtime. For example, our anti-hero consistently likens the general human population to “zombies” and our species technological advances have never seemed so insignificant. Caught somewhere between the complexity of electricity and the emergence of the smartphone, there’s no shortage of witty jabs at our futuristic gadgets and their controlling, outdated prowess.
Not stopping at our achievements, “Only Lovers Left Alive” continues to shine a harsh light on humankind’s shortcomings. With the persistent bashing of our kinds stupidity for dismissing and cutting those down who propel us forward, those who think differently…like scientists, musicians, and philosophers…humanities faults are never far from prominent here. We’ve even managed to contaminate our own blood, which doesn’t sit well with those who bare fangs, as it poisons them, leading to an arduously slow, painful death. Forcing those who want to stay healthy into obtaining uncontaminated blood from a secure, reliable source, which is always risky. There’s symbolism oozing from Jarmusch’s latest, one must only look.
I can see how being alive for centuries, watching mankind progress at a crawl, might be frustrating. Hell, I can barely stand where we are currently or even look at where we’re heading without buckling…but I digress. There’s a beautiful theory, apart from Einstein’s Theory of Entanglement in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” comparing blood and water as the basis for all life and sustenance, a kind of eternal currency, that’s absolutely transcendent. Make sure to gather all the pieces scattered throughout the dialogue to form the thesis when watching.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” has so much to offer, it needn’t be carried by its two leads, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Nevertheless, both Tom and Tilda can’t help but put the film on their backs. Hiddleston as Adam, a modern rock god, mopping around a gloomy apartment, suicidal, experimenting, and helplessly in love. Swinton as Eve, sniffing about for fresh sustenance, full of wisdom and love, “ruthless, brutal” as Hiddleston’s Adam claims in the film. Both look so lovely, calm, but underneath storms brew and an evil dormant. Hiddleston, who continues his rapid ascent to the mainstream, is nothing short of marvellous and Swinton matches her co-star stride for stride. Never faltering under the obscurity, complexity, and weight of “Only Lovers Left Alive,” Swinton and Hiddleston run the show.
Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffery Wright, and William Hurt round out the cast and provide a much needed chaotic, grounded, human element to their cold-blooded, nocturnal co-stars and the film as a whole. Apart from Wasikowska, the supporting staff doesn’t garner much screen time, yet fulfill their limited duties with a very predictable capability. There’s a fear radiating from the supporting ensemble that the viewer can sympathize with, a need to tread lightly when in the company of these mysterious, stoic beings, which we can abide by. They’re never out of place or speak unless spoken to. Their performances are hypnotic, fragile, terrified.
Not simply a story with characters and structure, rather, Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” has a point to make. Its unnerving, smart, haunting, and beautiful, a toxic cocktail that tastes too good to put down.
Only Lovers Left Alive: 8.5 out of 10.