‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ – For Vampire Flicks, an Elegant and Welcome Infusion of Fresh Blood

Has there been a vampire film more playful, smart and beautiful than Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)? If so, please do tell.

With his exquisitely crafted 11th feature, the indie director infuses the genre with plenty of fresh (and uncontaminated) blood, offering ruminations on time, science, art, death and love through Adam and Eve, a happily married couple who also happen to be vampires.

By most measures, they’re the ideal Bohemian couple, extremely likeable outsiders and soul mates: Eve (Tilda Swinton), a speed-reading multilingual maven of literature and the arts; and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) a scientist, alchemist, engineer and composer who over the centuries has produced anonymous works for music’s greatest legends.

In short, they’re sophisticated, well-read, ridiculously smart, and worldly. In the past they’ve hung out with Mary Shelly and Lord Byron; their current best friend is Christopher Marlowe who lives in Tangiers not far from Eve. Although he’s seen better days, he’s holding up well after 449 scorned years on the planet, thanks to a secret supplier of clean fresh blood and to William Hurt’s admiring and hugely sympathetic portrayal.

But Adam’s not. He’s depressed and reclusive, harboring thoughts of suicide. He’s having a difficult time coping with what the zombies –vampires’ endearing term for humans– are doing to the planet. His current roosting place, a dilapidated house in a deserted swath of Detroit, serves as a perfect example of what zombies have wrought.

Eve decides to visit, and after a long series of night flights arrives in the Motor City to once again come to her husband’s rescue. As she begins to shake Adam from the doldrums, trouble appears when her sister, the forever-young Eva (Mia Wasikowska), pays a visit. She’s irritating and irresponsible, and Adam, still harboring an unexplained grudge after 87 years, wants nothing to do with her. “Shouldn’t she be in coffin somewhere, preferably with a wooden stake through her heart?”

But Eva is family and he finally relents, only to be proven right when she shows that she’s unable to control her urges for blood in a manner befitting a 21st century vampire. She’s sent away but more trouble looms. When fans of Adam’s music begin to zero in on their hero’s whereabouts, the couple is forced to uproot. They return to Tangiers, where they discover Marlowe on his deathbed.

Their journey leaves them hungry but saddened, jaded and exhausted by life as well. Their supply of blood gone, they find themselves sitting at the end of their proverbial road where two young lovers, lost in the embrace and kisses of the other, appear, forcing Adam and Eve to ask themselves the most crucial of questions: is life still worth living?

Check out the trailer, below.

Screened at the 24th Ljubljana International Film Festival, 10-Nov-2013.
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