Film review: Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 10:12pm

Only Lovers Left Alive
Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska
Director: Jim Jarmusch


Veteran American arthouse director Jim Jarmusch wrests the vampire genre back from angst-ridden teenagers and breathes new life into the myth of the undead.

He positions his central characters - played with resigned dignity by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton - as being concerned mainly with the aesthetics of everyday modern life and with lamenting over how they have declined over the centuries.

A languid sense of decline permeates the entire production, heightened by the fact it is mostly set in the backblocks of Detroit, that poster city for modern urban decay.

It is there that Hiddleston's character sits hidden away, working on his music and only occasionally having any contact with the "real" world outside. It is that city's broken down buildings, as much as the "zombies" that inhabit it, that cause his "Adam" the most despair. Jarmusch has fun in pointing out how things have indeed taken a turn for the worse.

Adam's "Eve" (Swinton) lives half a world away in Tangiers where she skirts the shadowy back alleys, emerging only to get her fixes of blood - these vampires don't feast, really, they savour the substance, like it's an opiate, which is another clever touch from Jarmusch that adds to the atmosphere. The all-round effect is that we, too, feel caught between worlds.

Swinton does ethereal like no other modern actor so it's no great stretch for us to imagine her character watching from the sidelines, down through the ages, while the director makes the most of Hiddleston's louche, Bohemian charm. There are moments when the pretentiousness takes over, and some of the dialogue tries to be a little too clever for its own good. But they are fleeting.

These creatures seem to have given up on a world that seems to have given up on itself - they are going nowhere, really, and it might just be that Jarmusch wants his audience to ponder whether that might be true of themselves, and of the world around them.

Extras: Travelling at Night with Jim Jarmusch featurette; Hal music video; deleted and extended scenes; trailer.