A new vampire movie is on the horizon, but does it fit the ‘Twilight’ trend? The SOAS Spirit takes a look and leaves mesmerized.
By Cristiana Moisescu
“Only Lovers Left Alive” is a deliciously macabre movie, complete with gothic overtones and psychedelic music. It is the story of two vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), who are forced to go back to the primeval method of attacking people for blood (‘How very 15th century,’ thinks Eve) when their suppliers disappear. At least, that’s one way of telling it. Alternatively, this is the story of a happily married couple (for close to four centuries, we might add), whose life gets turned upside down when Eva’s troublesome little sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) comes to call. Because even vampires have family trouble, suffer from depression, travel first class and own iPhones.
This couple’s usual life takes place at night-time – luminous, full-of-promise nights, filled with music, love-making and the occasional blood-sipping, as well as a lot of reminiscing about the yesterdays of hanging out with the likes of Poe, Shelley and Byron (‘a pompous ass’, according to Adam). The true gist of their problem is the one most common to mortals and immortals alike, the passing of time, with all the implications that has for self-preservation. The movie is replete with primordial undertones, starting with the names of its protagonists, a clear allusion to the biblical Adam and Eve. Their paradise is their home, set in a Detroit that is crumbling around them, a decaying city on the edge of extinction, exactly as they are, and everything brought to this point by the human race (‘zombies’, they call us), which as always, understands everything only when it’s too late.
The peril of death draws closer than comfortable when their friend and fellow vampire Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), the playwright supposedly murdered in the 15th century, falls fatally ill. At the same time, Eve’s sister, Ava, is another symbol of impending doom, coming to further disturb their fragile (if glamorous) livelihood. Appearing at times as a catastrophe in the making, at times as a petulant child, Ava triggers the couple’s departure to Tangiers, Morocco, a mysterious, noise-infused town, whose winding alleys and dark corners are seemingly made for them.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” is sublimely weird, with a hypnotic feeling running throughout it, seeping into the imagery, the houses the couple inhabit, the music that binds everything together. The two live in an overdose of senses, surrounding themselves with history in the form of ancient musical instruments, keeping everyone and everything away in an attempt to maintain their paradise intact. Theirs is a story of courtly love, of decadence and decay, with a house in tatters which guards inside it a history of the world. The fall from Paradise occurs as they are forced to embark on killing again in order to survive, but we get the feeling that that won’t prove to be such an insurmountable obstacle.
Director and screenwriter Jim Jarmusch does a great job in creating an atmosphere of eerie glamour rather than outright fear, taking this more as a melancholy love story, where the lovers happen to be vampires – and it works, too. Swinton and Hiddleston bring forth a gothic lusciousness to the screen, taking over our sense of right and wrong, making us actively root for them. They are, by far, the most loveable vampire couple out there, whose levels of cool outstretch far beyond anything the “Twilight” series could inspire.
Bonus point: a live, dream-like musical performance by Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan.