[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00IKMC0YO][/pullquote] Cult directors don’t get much more cult than Jim Jarmusch and who better than the bequiffed auteur to breathe new life into that tiredest of genres, the vampire film.
I’m a fan of vampire films, from the terrifying Nosferatu to Bela Lugosi’s enigmatic Dracula, from the lurid thrills of the Hammer films to the brilliantly tragic Let The Right One In. But for all the good stuff, there’s a lot of dross out there with very little original thinking or interesting ideas.
That’s the never the case with a Jim Jarmusch film and once again he’s found a new take on a familiar genre with Only Lovers Left Alive, a witty, stylish and fresh look at vampire.
Tom Hiddleston‘s Adam and Tilda Swinton’s Eve are vampire lovers, aristocratic, cultured, decadent and reclusive. He lives in a crumbling town house in the ruins of Detroit, writing cult underground music amid piles of vinyl, vintage instruments and recording equipment. She’s ensconced in Tangier, surrounded by books in what looks like a hippy retreat that’s not changed much since the 1960s.
As in traditional vampire lore, they both feed off human blood but instead of preying on victims they take delivery of the red stuff (high quality, uncontaminated) through intermediaries; Adam through a jittery hospital doctor (played by Jeffrey Wright) and Eve through no less than Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe (a leonine John Hurt) the 16th century playwright and spy (who it turns out did pen all Shakespeare’s plays – that’s Jarmusch’s theory anyway).
When Adam and Eve take their blood it’s a highly ritualised process as they down it from a sherry glass – Jarmusch’s camera follows their faces as they simultaneously throw back their heads in an ecstatic thrill, fangs bared, eyes gleaming. It’s very much like a movie depiction of drug taking, complete with dark, droning, psychedelic music.
Behind the veneer of decadence and superiority, Adam is depressed and disillusioned about the state of the world and how creativity and brilliance is stifled by humans (or zombies as he calls them). To console him, Eve travels to Detroit from Tangier (using night flights only) but trouble is on the way too as Eve’s wild child sister Eva (Mia Wasikowska) arrives too, bringing chaos, disruption and tension to Adam and Eve’s settled, bohemian lifestyles.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow burning and entirely original take on the vampire flick that either avoids or parodies the usual cliches. Hiddleston and Swinton are perfectly cast as the aloof, cultured vamps, totally immersed in their own world and doing their best to avoid contact with inferior humans.
Eva accuses them of snobbery and she’s got a point; they often sound like privileged bohemians complaining about the working classes. Hiddleston is brooding and melancholy, Swinton imperious and sensitive but both are compellingly attractive and beguiling.