Assuming we all agree that vampires exist, we know that not every vampire goes around saying “I want to suck your blood” nor are they bloodthirsty savages. Sometimes, they are trapped in their existence, struggling to survive day-to-day. Searching for blood without taking a human life is a challenge in this modern day where everyone is constantly connected virtually and cameras capture our every movement. It can lead to depression for vampires and isn’t quite the glamourous life Hollywood makes it out to be. That is the background to the main story director Jim Jarmusch presents in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013).
The main vampire of the flick is Adam (Tom Hiddleston, Thor), a musician who has become a recluse, living in a rundown home in Detroit. He is off the grid as he powers it with energy sources he learned from Nikola Tesla. He hates the modern world and the people in it, referring to them as zombies. His countless centuries have left him depressed at the downfall of mankind. He travels to a local hospital at night posing as a doctor so he can get his supply of blood from Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright, Quantum of Solace). He enjoys a mysterious celebrity status for his music, occasionally seeing fans walking up to his door seeking him out. His only friend in the real world is Ian (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek), who brings him guitars and musical equipment.
Adam is contemplating suicide and asks Ian to find someone who can create a wooden bullet. He claims it is for a project but he actually plans to kill himself. Just as he is ready to do it, he receives a video phone call from his wife Eve (Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer). Eve lives in Tangiers, lurking in the shadows and getting her blood supply from a fellow vampire named Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt, Alien). Eve travels to Detroit in hopes of saving Adam. Upon her arrival, they rekindle their love and passion for each other. The veil of darkness over Adam is lifted…until Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland) arrives. Ava is young without control and their peaceful existence is rapidly pushed aside as their lives soon spiral out of control.
Blood and gore play a very little part to the story behind Only Lovers Left Alive. In fact, vampire fangs are almost entirely absent. The true story here is the gothic romance between Adam and Eve (intentionally symbolic names). The film is almost entirely set at night, adding a mysterious shroud over the film full of atmospheric clichés that truly work here. Seeing Hiddleston in a role other than Loki is great as he embodies the character of Adam. Swinton offers up her usual otherworldly charm while Hurt puts in an understated performance. Wasikowska does well in her role as the annoying and troublesome Ava. A small but very talented cast bring what is a simple story to life.
The final piece to the cinematic puzzle is the music behind the film. From Adam’s musical creations to the haunting song performed by the street singer Yasmine in Tangiers, it helps this film stand out amongst other vampire films. The singer is Yasmine Hamdan, an accomplished musician easily found on YouTube. Check out her music and you’ll be drawn into another world.
We’ve seen just about everything we can when it comes to vampires, so when something this fresh and different comes along, it’s worth recognizing. Only Lovers Left Alive was recently available through On Demand and released on home video. Check out the trailer and seek out this unique film. It’s one of my personal favorites of the year and I highly recommend it.