For the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival I figured I’d try and keep some kind of a review diary covering each of the 20 or so films I’m planning to see. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.
A perfect ending to this years NZIFF, to rival last year’s stunning Holy Motors, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive apparently had to have clearance from the esoteric director himself before they were allowed to be screened. Fortunately for the packed Embassy Theatre, he gave the thumbs up.
What has become clear to me is that the world needs more arthouse vampire films. Only Lovers Left Alive joins the ranks of two other relatively recent films Let the Right One In and Thirst, as examples of how to effectively tweak the well-worn genre. Each explores the vampiric curse in their own unique way, and show that the vampire genre still has fangs, even if all the teenagers have forgotten.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a bizarre window into the life of a pair of married vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Initially separated for unexplained reasons, Adam and Eve’s respective lives seem to be in a holding pattern. He, an apparent musical genius, lives a reclusive existence, meandering through the rooms of his run down Detroit villa and only venturing out to collect blood from his ‘dealer’ (Jeffrey Wright). She however walks the narrow alleys of Tangiers, spending time with a long-time acquaintance, the eccentric Marlowe (John Hurt), the real writer behind Shakespeare and who knows how many others.
As Eve sees Adam sink deeper into a suicidal depression, she opts to fly to Detroit to be with him, and it’s upon her arrival that Hiddleston and Swinton really come alive. Jarmusch displays how effective good casting can be, with Hiddleston perfect for the moping yet creatively brilliant Adam, and Swinton at her slinky, alien best as Eve. As well as Hurt, Anton Yelchin does solid work as Adam’s conduit to the outside world Ian, and Mia Wasikowska shines as Eve’s troublesome sister Ava.
Like several other Jarmusch films I can think of, there is great thematic depth to Only Lovers Left Alive that will doubtless reward multiple viewings. There’s clear allegorical comment about Detroit and Hollywood, and a lot is being said about music, literature, art, and probably dozens of things that flew over my head, but I’m eager to dive back in as soon as possible.
And I haven’t even mentioned the incredible work of the art department on the film. Adam’s house itself is a marvel, a once opulent, cavernous mansion now cluttered with what feels like centuries of accumulated baggage. A more fitting abode for Adam I can’t imagine. Only Lovers Left Alive wrapped up the New Zealand International Film Festival for 2013 in fine style, and while I’m a little relieved it’s over, I’m already counting down the days until NZIFF 2014.