Vampires have taken a bit of a kicking in the last few years, going from dreaded creatures of the night to sparkly things that fall in love. Therefore, it’s refreshing to see Jim Jarmusch remind us just how cool vampires can be in his latest movie Only Lovers Left Alive.
Starring Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton as the coolest vampire pairing since Spike and Druisilla careered into the Sunnydale sign so many years ago, Only Lovers Left Alive see’s a group of vampires who have left behind the hunting and slaughter of the past and instead found rock and roll and literature to express themselves. Meanwhile ‘zombie’ (or human) blood has become so contaminated by the 21st century lifestyle that to feed on it can mean death, turning blood from a substance found on every corner to a rare commodity that appears to have an almost heroin esque effect on those who drink on it. In the centre of all this is Adam (Hiddlestone) and Eve (Swinton) a couple who come together in Detroit in order to spend time together after years apart.
Those familar with Jarmusch’s work will not be surprised there isn’t much more of a plot than that. This is a movie that relies on atmosphere and music as much as it does story. It’s also a movie that achieves something by doing exactly that. It is beautifully shot and whether it be the hot streets of Tangier or the cramped claustrophobic apartment which Adam inhabits, you genuinely feel like you are there alongside them. While the music that weaves it’s way through the movie is fantastic with every note adding something to the tale, while the ability to take the music completely out and go silent to emphasise moments is even more impressive.
Elsewhere I challenge anyone to get 10 minutes into this film before they begin to question why no one has cast Hiddlestone and Swinton in these roles before. The two of them scream vampire and their pale skin and rock star good looks make sure that you never doubt their position as creatures of the living dead. Such fantastic casting almost makes it easy to forget the roles of John Hurt and Mia Wasokowski who both play small but vital parts in making sure that this story doesn’t completely disappear off into it’s own obscurity.
Only Lovers Left Alive is one of those movies that you are either going to love or hate. It has to be said that it is self indulgent and moody and has a few moments that could have come out of a teenage boy who spends far too much time in his bedroom listening to grunge. However, that doesn’t prevent this being a great watch. There is some genuinely funny humour hidden away among the moodiness and the film doesn’t take itself seriously enough for the self indulgence to become too big an issue. At the end of the day it’s a movie that you can probably already tell whether you will love or hate, whichever side of the fence you come down on though, at least vampires feel kind of cool again.