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DVD Review – Only Lovers Left Alive

3 min read

Only Lovers Left Alive begins as a starry constellation blurs into an image of a spinning LP. The person listening is Adam (Tom Hiddleston), blissfully dazed on the floor of his cluttered living room, adorned with ornate instruments and electronic paraphernalia. Then we find ourselves in the minimalist abode of Eve (Tilda Swinton), also splayed out on her bed in a glorious shot that conjures images of Roman beauties or even the English aristocracy.

Only Lovers Left Alive DVDThe couple are the ‘lovers’ of the title, but we learn that they live separately – Adam in a dilapidated mansion on the outskirts of contemporary Detroit, whilst Eve lives in the exotic city of Tangier. We follow them as they each visit their respective ‘dealer’; Adam at a local hospital, adorned in a doctors coat and Wayfarers, met by jittery and neurotic Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright), while Eve meets with Marlowe (John Hurt). They each collect vials and return to their homes. In a ritualistic fashion they pour red liquid into a small glass, as if sampling a fine port, and proceed to drink, slowly feelings the effects and simultaneously reaching an ecstatic bliss. This is also the first time we see their fangs bared.

Ostensibly, Only Lovers Left Alive is a ‘vampire’ film, in a genre that is now filled with second-rate and dismal creations. But this particular vampire film is in the capable hands of Jim Jarmusch who has made some exceptional and timeless arthouse American classics, my personal favourites being Dead Man and Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. This impressionist style opening introduces us to the tone for the rest of the film – it is not so concerned with plot or narrative drive as with emotions and small interactions. Jarmusch takes his time to weave a fascinating and entertaining milieu. Hiddleston and Swinton are wonderfully deadpan and sardonic as a couple who have lived and loved over centuries. Adam is almost like an ‘emo’ teenager, angry at the world, remaining reclusive and only allowing interactions between himself, Eve and Ian (Anton Yelchin) a human groupie unaware of his idols extracurricular tastes.

Eve is more forgiving and indulgent – in one particularly enjoyable sequence Adam takes her on a drive around the crumbling Detroit, to the house where Jack White was raised (‘I love Jack White!’ she exclaims playfully) and to an old music theatre, which has now become a run-down carpark. The parallels between this image of a fallen empire, or a broken history, and the current state of America is clear; that Adam lives in one of the most depressed and struggling areas of the United States is no mistake on the part of the filmmakers. But Eve always remains upbeat and positive, ensuring him that there will be a sharp rise after the fall, and you get the feeling that they have seen many rises and falls during their time as the undead. This precocious nature is shared by Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who has travelled from Los Angeles to meet them (the subject of much derision from Adam).

Circumstance leads the couple to abandon Ava and return to Tangier, but again, the plot is mere secondary to the themes, emotions and images that Jarmusch, the filmmaking team and in particular Swinton and Hiddleston manage to explore. It is a playful, offbeat, repressed and yet expressive ode to history, culture and changing times all told through the perspective of two very very old souls.

DVD Extras:

Behind the scenes documentary: Travelling at night with Jim Jarmusch
Interviews with Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleton and Mia Wasikowska

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