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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Only Lovers Left Alive

The White Witch and Loki are a centuries old vampire couple in Jim Jarmusch’s vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive. Isn’t that a fun pairing? It was the casting that caught my attention because I always steer clear of the vampire film genre. I abhor it with much passion and believe that it is a crime for the vampire film genre to be even a genre. But Only Lovers Left Alive is not just a vampire film, it is a vampire art movie.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) live half a world apart but are still very much in love with each other. They also happen to be vampires and have lived through the centuries; they look tired having survived all of the atrocities that mankind has unleashed upon itself. They survive because they have to survive, and see no other way. Adam is a reclusive musician having an affinity for musical instruments, living in a dilapidated house in Detroit. He has two contacts in the human world – Ian (Anton Yelchin), whom he calls a zombie and a doctor at the local hospital who supplies him with pure O negative blood. Adam’s name for the humankind is his personal joke because he believes that even though men are the actual living creatures, they are not really alive, their souls having been tarnished because of greed, power, wealth, wars, corruption, but mostly because of their squandered ability to appreciate art. Eve (Tilda Swinton), his one big true love arrives from Tangier comes to check up on him when she senses a feeling of resignation and dejection over the phone. Yes, vampires use the phone, a i-Phone at that too. Adam has lost faith in mankind, he feels that they have no future. He asks Eve in a weary tone “Has the water wars started yet, or is it still oil?”, when the two of them sit discussing the finer points of the composition of blood and the percentage of water that engulfs our planet. They make love, but it is not a lustful, violent love where it is gory and bloody, it is a sensual love; they make art.

Adam and Eve are artists; even when they are not Adam and Eve they choose to be artists through Stephen Dedalus and Daiy Buchanan. They are too aristocratic to be mundane, they are muses and critics of the ideals. Navigating the 21st century is not an easy task, especially when you have lived through the centuries and navigated through the worst. But blood popsicles?! That is a novel idea. And that is how Eve tries to cheer up Adam, when he becomes suicidal. The fact that contaminated blood affects the vampires and makes them sick is a fun concept indeed. This is why they refer to the O negative as “the Good Stuff”; it gives them a high, it makes them euphoric. Their real appetite, however, is for culture. Nothing passes the centuries better than a good read or a great tune. Theirs is an affectionate reunion consummated through vinyl listening parties, chatty chess matches, and gorgeous, nighttime tours of a ghost-town Detroit.

Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow paced movie, progressing through with so much languor that it might seem that it is gliding. It is mostly a sumptuously narcotised atmosphere, and the haunting eerie soundtrack carries the movie on its back. Adam and Eve have wit, warmth and a certain raffish flamboyance that makes them oddly endearing. They are undoubtedly seductive, and anyone who shares their musical, literary and cinematic interests will luxuriate in their company.

Only Lovers Left Alive is full of rare and gorgeous images and sounds, heavy with wistful sighs and sprinkled with wry, knowing jokes — but it is also thin and pale, and is too afraid of daylight; the entire movie takes place at night. It is all atmosphere and attitude, as evanescent as a dream; it brings about a sense of nostalgia and even connoisseurship at one level. Adam and Eve showcase that throughout the centuries, love is the only true thing that exists.

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