Jim Jarmusch’s latest film is as much a deconstruction of time, history and technology as it is a vampire tale.
Detroit ground, Jarmusch filters an unlikely saga of familial dysfunction, as the vampiric husband and wife pair of Adam and Eve (a rarely better Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton respectively) come together upon experiencing a shared dream. Said vision revolves around the younger sister of the latter, who’s wanton ways are destined to bring trouble upon those around her.
The film is an ode to its host city of Detroit, Michigan. As Adam and Eve drive through the ruins of the financially crippled city at night, a locale underused on-screen in many ways (although here present for the second time in as many weeks, following last week’s RoboCop redux) but one whose decay, the antithesis of the everlasting undead, has in turn become something very cinematic. A modern day dystopia, that stands against everything that the American Dream professes to stand for, the recently bankrupt Detroit of the 21st Century makes for the most compelling American filmic backdrop since the post-Katrina New Orleans of Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant (and the city that provided Jarmusch with a home for his Down By Law some 20 years before the waves came).
Distortion leads the sensory experience, the echo of non-traditionally beautiful guitar rifts fleadong the way via the films aural channel. Dizzying camerawork accompanies this sonic landscape (note the emphasis on the sound of the piece above all else). Set mostly during the night-time, an enforced lethargy prevails: the audience is very much placed in the world of his protagonists. Hazy, but focussed, and cuttingly laden with a thoughtful and satisfying undercurrent, Only Lovers Left Alive satisfies on a number of levels.
But mere mood piece Only Lovers Left Alive ain’t: it’s achingly funny at times, with Adam’s wit and sarcasm provoking genuine belly laughs, and reminding the viewer that Jarmusch has been responsible for some of the most acidically brilliant comedy of his generation. Fusing the hangdog blues of previous Jarmusch collaborator Bill Murray with a melodramatic erring, Hiddleston is given the room and opportunity to break from type (betwixt intense drama and pantomime Loki, Hiddleston has never really acted out in this way before).
An unlikely fable of love and time, and the world affected, Only Lovers Left Alive finds itself attached to our highest recommendation.