DVD Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

81wHOPQDudL._SL1500_Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston & Anton Yelchin

It’s about- because of course it is- eccentric loners having pithy conversations about mostly meaningless, cool-sounding junk. It’s by Jim Jarmusch, what did you expect? The more pertinent question is whether there’s something beneath it. In this case, there is.

Adam (Hiddleston) lives in dilapidated Detroit, in a run-down home on the outskirts of town. Surrounded by rock-and-roll bric-a-brac, the closest thing he has to a friend is Ian (Yelchin) – a well-meaning fellow, but not exactly on Adam’s level. Meanwhile, in Tangier, Eve (Swinton) wakes in her book-filled flat and walks to her local café, to meet with Kitt, who provides her with her fresh blood. By the way, that’s the reason they have so much cool stuff, are so cultured, and only hang around at night- they’re vampires. After a brief call with Adam, Eve realizes he is depressed, and decides to join him in Detroit. Unfortunately, her sister joins them soon after, with dire consequences.

 

That potted summary does little justice to the film; it’s trancelike, full of slowly revolving shots and long, complex guitar drone movements (composed mostly by Jarmusch himself). The film slips between Detroit and Tangier at will, as easily as the fact that Adam and Eve are listening to the same record. The same bleached orange palette is kept throughout, washing over both cities, exacerbating the feeling of desolation- even Tangier is deserted, since we only see it at night. This all adds to the floaty, hypnotic atmosphere; this is even self-referenced in scenes that show the effects of drinking blood, portrayed as a highly controlled, ritualized act akin to heavy drug taking.

Sometimes this can all be a bit overwhelming. And, as the first half hour drags on with little to nothing happening, it’s easy to wonder what the point of it all is. But Jarmusch is a filmmaker for whom style and substance are not easily extricated, and as the flashier visuals fall away, a dense character study reveals itself, embracing its genre trappings to deliver a very different take on immortality than can be seen elsewhere.

And the humour and observation of Jarmusch’s best work is there as well; his Adam and Eve are believably a married couple, just with a few more centuries under their belts. Their dialogue sparkles (unlike their skin) and several lines produce powerful images that stay in the mind for a long time after the film finishes. In fact, the whole cast- immortal except for Ian- are remarkably human, full of pettiness and eccentricities. Notably, Kitt is still furious about that Shakespeare stealing his ideas… And it’s this human focus, combined with subtle but strong visuals communicated excellently on Blu-Ray that make the film well worth a watch.

4/5

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