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Only Lovers Left Alive
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The tale of two fragile and sensitive vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), who have been lovers for centuries. Both are cultured intellectuals with an all-embracing passion for music, literature and science, who have evolved to a level where they no longer kill for sustenance, but still retain their innate wildness. Their love story has endured several centuries but their debauched idyll is threatened by the uninvited arrival of Eve’s carefree little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who hasn’t yet learned to tame her wilder instincts. Driven by sensual photography, trance-like music, and droll humor, Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a meditation on art, science, and the mysteries of everlasting love.
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But consider: Jim Jarmusch is the director, and it stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.
Yep. Even though the vampire craze burned itself out a year or two ago, "Only Lovers Left Alive" shows that it will never truly die. This is no teen romance starring gel-haired models -- this is a melancholy, bittersweet tale of love, blood and rock'n'roll, drifting in its own little moonlit world. Swinton and Hiddleston are truly sublime as longtime loves who draw strength from each other, but have trouble with the visiting relatives.
Adam (Hiddleston) is a standard vampire -- he's lived for many centuries, and now he's depressed by the way the world is turning out. He spends all his time hiding in a decrepit Detroit house, recording shoegazer music and uploading it anonymously onto the Internet. His only contact with the outside world is when he buys blood donations from a hospital, and when his "zombie" Ian (Anton Yelchin) brings him new vintage guitars.
So he pays Ian to make him a wooden bullet, planning to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart. But his wife Eve (Swinton), who has been living in Tangiers for some years, senses his despair and decides to come visit him.
The two lovers reunite, and Eve manages to pull Adam from his stupor -- talking, dancing, chess, blood popsicles, lovemaking (implied) and late-night meanderings through the empty streets. But then Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) makes herself at home in Adam's house, disrupting their lives with her reckless behavior. And when she does something unforgivable, she may force Adam and Eve to leave as well.
The vampires of "Only Lovers Left Alive" are very different from the sleek kind you find in most movies -- they have wild untamed hair, odd clothing, and live in shadowy houses cluttered with whatever they love. Mostly they drift around the night, having odd elliptical conversations that subtly hint at how different they from humans ("I just feel like all the sand is at the bottom of the hour glass or something").
The first half of the movie is about Eve and Adam reconnecting, and how she gradually drags him out of his self-indulgent torpor. But the second half is sparked off by the presence of Ava -- she's pretty clearly going to cause problems right from the start, which sends the lovers spiraling off into the night.
I know, it sounds tedious... but the mixture of vampires, rock'n'roll and romance is strangely hypnotic. Jarmusch's direction is dreamlike and languid here, drifting over the vampire's faces as they lose themselves in their dances and blood ecstasy. Grittiness, decay, pale golden light in the streets. But he sharpens his focus in the latter half, as the lovers encounter a real problem that they have to deal with.
Also, Christopher Marlowe (as played by John Hurt) appears in this for... some reason. I think it's just to awkwardly air Jarmusch's anti-Stratfordian sentiments, but the significance of this character is... completely unknown.
It's hard to imagine two better actors for this movie than Swinton and Hiddleston. They LOOK like vampires -- tall, slender, androgynous and pale as the moon. Swinton plays Eve as a roaming bibliophile who soaks up knowledge like a sponge, delighting in the many things she's seen and done; Hiddleston's Adam is a moody, melancholy mess who hides away from the problems -- and the joys -- of life. They beautifully exude the air of a couple who has been together literally for ages; after years apart, they reunite with a warmth devoid of awkwardness, as if Eve had only left for a weekend.
"Only Lovers Left Alive" is a vampire romance for the people sick of vampire romances -- a languid, rock'n'roll-infused tale of joie-de-vivre lost and regained. A work of art, and worth it alone for the performances by Swinton and Hiddleston.