My first foray into this year's TIFF was Jim Jarmusch's new effort Only Lovers Left Alive.
Soon after centuries-old vampire Eve (Tilda Swinton) travels from Tangiers to Detroit to reunite with her melancholy lover Adam (Tom Hiddleston), their reclusive existence is threatened by an unexpected visit from Eve's sister Eva (Mia Wasikowska).
I really dug this film. It is by no means a horror film, more a collection of musings from vampires living in the modern world, but I still found it greatly engaging. It is very slow and brooding – it is a Jarmusch flick after all – but I think the film succeeds on the strength of its characters. Swinton is remarkable, inhabiting Eve with every fiber of her being and her connection with Hiddleston – also fantastic – is palpable. I really felt they'd known each other for hundreds of years. It has been a very long time since I've seen vampires played with such weight. It is this power that holds your attention because very little actually happens in this film. Sure, Wasikowska appears in the second act to add some conflict, but Only Lovers Left Alive is really just about Adam & Eve reuniting after a sizable absence.
|Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston as Eve & Adam in Only Lovers Left Alive.|
Jarmusch put a lot of thought into the lore of these characters and it showed. Through the conversations between Adam and Eve, you really get a sense of how many artists, poets and historical figures they have come across through the ages, some of which were still kicking, as John Hurt appears as an old and wizened Christopher Marlowe. I also found their acute awareness of how humans – or “zombies” as they are disdainly referred – are destroying their once beautiful world quite clever. Adam & Eve are under the constant threat of blood contamination, as the planet melts around them, and are powerless to do anything about it. I've never seen an environmental message, which, mind you, could be completely unintentional or imagined, framed in such a way before.
While I've only seen a few Jarmusch's films, I felt that the camerawork was a bit more elaborate in this film. It had a surreal and ethereal feel to it, especially the establishing few minutes that seemed to float between the two locales. I also have to mention how much I loved the music. As if to further demonstrate how long these characters had been on Earth, the music ranged from classical to contemporary. The dreamy soundscapes created by Adam, which he refers to as “funeral music”, were entirely my bag.
|Director Jim Jarmusch (left) with stars Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and producer Jeremy Thomas.|
If you're not into the work of Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive probably won't do much to change your mind, but I found it a very interesting piece featuring two of the most skilled actors working today.