I remember all the hype surrounding Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) around the time of its release, I never really paid it much attention, vampires not really being something that would attract me to a film Then the more I saw of Tilda Swinton I thought I’d better take a look. The concept of vampires living through the ages I have seen with Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1993) as the main characters adapt to survive through the ages, along with the heavy homosexual connotations. We see Pitt’s character struggle with his new consciousness. The couple in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) have long ago resolved that issue and just about enjoyed that night-time existence through the ages. Meeting all the giant figures of the time, from music to literature they knew them first hand. Something that the audience would be very jealous of, if only the gothic creatures were real.
Move forward to the twenty-first century and times are tough for Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) who now live lives similar to drug addicts, needing blood but unable to get it the traditional way by biting into the neck of a victim. Needing to adapt to modern ways, no longer can they leave bodies to rot, with no mass deaths, and police would suspect a serial killer. New methods are needed to ensure they stay alive. The blood also needs to be pure, not infected with drugs, something they didn’t have to worry about centuries ago.
The life of a vampire has been given a modern make-over, gone are the traditional tropes of black capes, turning into a bat and sleeping in a coffin. A much-needed update to engage with a new audience, to give the creatures a modern context and a relationship that has lasted through the ages.Of course they still have to be away from the sunlight, creating these pale creatures of the night who indulge in the drug that is pure clean blood that has to be source carefully.
We learn early on that the ironically named Adam and Eve are a married couple who are living apart. Adam as a reclusive musician in Detroit, famous for its contributions to music, living in run-down house, filled with kit that he has wired up to record music, and even see Eve on via her phone in Tangier, he’s a very much a man of the past surviving in the present. A musician who has toyed with the idea of suicide, asking his only friend to source a wooden 35mm bullet for him. He’s fed up with life at times. I know I wouldn’t want to live that long, even naturally, having become bored, his talent has reached an audience who want more from him, leaning on a level of fame that he can’t handle.
Unlike his wife who very much still enjoys her existence as a creature of the night, not far from fellow vampire Marlowe (John Hurt) whose supposed to be a literary figure of the past that has carried on under different pseudonyms including William Shakespeare as we learn. Could all our great figures of the past be all vampires who still live to this day. Marlowe is Eves blood dealer (if there’s such a word) getting her the finest. It’s all based on what if’s of their of they’re existence today, and how they may have influenced the past.
When Adam and Eve finally reunited we have a greater insight into the lives of modern vampires, which are quite complicated and calculated. With a dry sense of humour and melancholy which is pitch perfect for creatures who have literally seen and done it all (at night) you would grow tired of life, and what it offers. Otherwise needing new ways to stay engaged and active. When we meet Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) (probably a girl she turned centuries ago) a character they have both avoided for years, and we learn why, eternally young she will never really understand the elders who know best, leaving trouble in her wake. But probably more aware of what life is life for a modern vampire than Adam and Eve.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a fresh take on an old traditional staple of genre film story telling that really works. It would be crazy to see caped Count Dracula with cape living in a castle in some Eastern European country. It’s grown up becoming existential about it all, how they would cope, what they have seen. Without being too serious about it we have a couple who are just getting on with it. It’s all normal to them which works for the audience.