I went and saw ”Only Lovers Left Alive”, before I tell you what I thought though, a quick digression. Right before the curtains opened I overheard (completely by accident obviously) a couple discussing the film and their expectations. I went in with very average expectations, they however seemed to just be dreading the whole thing. One of them said – “Oh another stupid vampire film? What, do they need to release one a year now or something?”
To this I can only respond with – what?
I understand the sentiment to a degree. Yes vampire films did kind of explode all over the cinema scene for a while there. But is that a bad thing? I argue not. Films featuring vampires have been around FOREVER (or since around 1909) and there’s a reason we keep coming back to them and the reason is not the vampires – it’s the plot. If they released film after film that followed the plotline of Dracula and just put different names on it then I would be all aboard the vampire-films-are-getting-so-stupid train. The stories always differ though, to varying degrees of success. Most recently, and most prominently has been the Twilight saga which for the most part defanged vampires. The fear of the blood-sucking fiend had been reduced to creatures that like to look pretty and date teenagers for no logical reason. While this, for most people, made the supernatural an adolescent stain on modern cinema, I personally think it’s excellent. Not in reference to the Twilight saga, but several other films aimed explicitly at that younger audience have changed the game in a good way. We don’t know what to expect, because we’ve been handed so many extremes, there’s equal chance now in all supernatural/fantasy films that it might be brutal and intense or it could be a rom com of a girl who just can’t decide which mythological boy to take to prom.
Going back to the man’s comment I don’t think he has a problem with vampire films – I think he’s got a problem with the content. It’s worth knowing the difference. Once bad film does not a bad genre make.
And Only Lovers Left Alive is in no way, shape or form a bad film. It’s a refreshing return to subtle horrors, colourful, diverse and witty characters and in my opinion a killer soundtrack (pun very intended). The film follows the lives and love of Adam and Eve, both vampires played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton respectively. The chemistry between the two is incredible and the dynamic while shown to be very close lovers never comes across as silly or forced. John Hurt is outstanding as the witty but frail Marlowe. Other featured cast including Mia Wasikowska (Ava), Jeffery Wright (Dr. Watson) and Anton Yelchin (Ian) all come forward with solid performances. The success of this film and the incredibly positive reaction the audience had are of course in thanks to the cast, but even more so to an exceptional screenplay and direction by Jim Jarmusch.
It’s a film that does not take itself too seriously, with Adam’s conflict on if he wants to die or not being mocked later by Marlowe and Eve as being worse than Hamlet. It is also something of a running gag to hate on past writers – Shakespeare included. Swinton, as with many of her roles brings so much life to her character Eve, forming one of the most three dimensional female vampires I’ve ever seen on screen before. Wasikowska has an undeniable charm as Ava, however bratty the character is at her core, Wasikowksa makes her so much more than just the little sister of Eve.
The vampire element is consistent with the notion that they sleep during the day, and they drink human blood – at once point in the film Eve makes O-neg popsicles. The film too is devoid of any blatant action scenes and instead opts for a more subtle, purposefully funny approach to the more gruesome or horrific scenes.
I cannot recommend this film enough, but I would strongly recommend it for those who like to be challenged by films, or those who believe vampire films are dead. Only Lovers Left Alive will eradicate any doubt that all genres and all creatures can’t be revived. The only downside I can put against the film is that it does at times drag a little bit, but is always quick to pick back up after it does. Only Lovers Left Alive is a valuable addition to any film lovers collection.