Ginger Nuts of Horror
How can you have lived for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living.
Only Lovers Left Alive is getting a special digital edition re-release courtesy of We Are Colony on Friday. The film passed passed this reviewer by on its initial release so to mark its release o I thought I would give it a spin.
I love vampires, and I love vampire movies, but over the years vampire movies have, sadly, devolved into repetitive exercises in the lowest common denominator let's make a vampire film. Filled with bad acting, no understanding of makes a great vampire movie, or worse still turning the Princes and Princesses of the night into some teenage object of obsession. You can probably count on one hand the number of vampire films in recent years that have any sort of merit.
Which makes the fact, that a director not typically associated with horror, can produce a film that perfectly captures the essence of a great vampire film so perfectly just a little bit galling.
Of course, the director in question in Jim Jarmusch, one of the finest filmmakers currently working at the moment, his films have always been a heady mix of incredible visuals, and deep narrative themes wrapped up in a super cool stylistic cinematography. All of which he brings to this film.
Opening with a visually stunning scene where our two main protagonists are shown lying like a pair of lounge lizards in their separate abodes. An aerial spinning shot, superimposed and cut with an image of a record spinning on a turntable while a slow and grimy version of Wanda Jackson's Funnel of Love blast over the speakers sets the film of high style. The synchronicity of the three spinning images highlighting one of the main themes of the film, the sense of synchronicity and cosmic entanglement that is felt and lived in that only lovers who have been together for centuries can feel.
Regarding plot, there is very little to the film, two centuries old vampiric lovers reunite, despite being able to live and feel what the other has been doing over a long distance, like two entangled atomic particles. The reunite, wallow in each others company until the sister of Adam arrives and disrupts the status quo with her spoiled child antics and unruly ways. Adam and Eve then travel to Tangiers to witness the death of one their vampire friends. And that is it, but that isn't the point of this film, this film is more about using the metaphor of vampires and their mythology to take a long cold hard look at our world of constant disassociation and isolation.
Adam, a bored musician, who never lets anyone listen to his music, and who lives with a constant desire to kill himself. Separated from the world, living in a rundown house, his only contact with the outside is through his "Renfield" and a Facetime enabled television. Tom Hiddleston is perfect as Adam, and his portrayal of such a cliched vampire trope is played to perfection. Which could so easily have been a poor man's Lestat, but both actor and director steer away from this to deliver a nuanced and layered performance that allows us to feel the pain, futility and emptiness of an eternal life.
The casting of Tilda Swinton is inspired, and her almost otherworldly looks are put to great use as the ethereal and regal Eve. Quiet, calm and composed, but with just a hint of warmth to her she acts as the perfect counterpoint to Hiddleston's Byronic portrayal of Adam. Her desire to commit the words of every book to memory, allows her to have a purpose in afterlife, which in turn allows her to become an anchor for Adam's suicidal urges to cling to and gain saviour from. Swinton's grace and beguiling ways add an extra level of class to a film that already oozes class.
But it is Mia Wasikowska's performance as Adam's unruly sister Eva that steals the film. A wonderfully energetic and captivating depiction of an unruly vampire, she is like every hyperactive and pathologically twisted sister that has ever been committed to screen. Where Adan and Eve's existence is one of languid love, her's is one of party on. And as the two worlds collide we just know nothing good can come out of it.
Only Lovers Left Alive is packed to the brim with excellent uses of vampire lore and mythology, from Adam, wanting to obtain a wooden bullet to commit suicide, to Adam and Eve being shocked at Eva crossing a threshold without being invited, to Eva's cheeky question as to whether they are both still scared by garlic. As for the vampires themselves, they must rank as one of the best dramatisations of them. Neither animalistic killers, or refugees from some gothic mishmash of overused tropes, they just are. The viewer is totally immersed in their culture and ways, completely believable with hints of the supernatural, they exist within our world, albeit at a slight angle.
The digital recording of the film is rich and sumptuous with deep black backdrops and shadows being used as a canvas of the bright almost clinical foregrounds, giving the film an almost dreamlike quality. Special mention must also be given the atmospheric soundtrack, the dirty, grimy nature of the incidental music and some excellent reworkings of some well known songs compliment the mesmerizing movie.
The languid, morose nature of the film is offset with some excellent dark humour, in particular, the scene where Adam discovers what his Renfield and sister have been up to is gloriously funny and yet restrained at the same time. Filled with pop culture references from throughout the ages, this is a film that stands up to repeat viewings.
Only Lovers Left Alive is an intelligent, heartfelt film that shows that horror films don't have to be filled with monsters and gore to be totally captivating, a philosophical film that makes us look at life love and the way we interact with an ever increasing insular world. al
The extras on offer from the digital boxset provide a fantastic insight into the film and those concerned with making it, insightful interviews, exclusive stills from the film, character bios, and exclusive behind the scenes features this is an excellent version of the film.
FULL DETAILS OF THE FABULOUS NEW EDITION CAN BE FOUND HERE