Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive - A Different Take on the Vampire Story

                The Vampire story has been done to death (pun intentional).  Movies, TV, books, virtually every platform there is has been dominated in recent memory by peoples fascination with the blood sucking Dracula descendants.  That being said, there are still some films which tackle the genre without giving in to popular demand for violent action sequences like in Underworld, or teen romance and alienation like in Twilight
                Such is the case with the British/German film Only Lovers Left Alive which takes on the vampire myth similar to the first season of True Blood in which the focus is heavily on both the history of the vampires themselves and who they are as people.  The film focuses on Adam and Eve played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.  The couple has lived for centuries and has had a hand in influencing many great works of art and music as well as breakthroughs in the fields of science and technology (Adam’s house in the abandoned slums of Detroit is run by technology he helped develop with Nicola Tesla).  Despite all their achievements, knowledge, and wealth, the two have become increasingly disillusioned with not just life, but humanity as a whole; particularly Adam who frequently refers to humans as “zombies” and sees them as mindless drones incapable of any true creation or discovery.  Adam goes so far as to ask a human boy who routinely acquires rare musical equipment for him to get him a wooden bullet as he sits alone in his home and contemplates suicide.  After a quick video call to his wife Eve who has lived the past several years in Tangier, he convinces her to return from her extended holiday where she has spent time rapidly pouring through endless stacks of books.  The two have moved beyond the need to feed on humans and instead get sustenance from a blood bank where Adam has paid off a doctor.  After increased attention from locals, and an unwelcome visit from Eve’s younger sister Ava who is both immature and unpredictable, the two decide to return to Eve’s home in Tangier.  After arriving the two pay a visit to Eve’s source of blood, an ancient vampire named Christopher Marlowe (played by John Hurt) who gets them their sustenance from various sources.  However, they find a sickly and dying Marlowe in bed after consuming a batch of tainted blood.  Now Adam and Eve, stumbling through the streets in a hunger stricken daze notice a young couple in an alley and realize that there is no escaping what must be done.
           Overall, I did have some problems with the film.  Much of the historical references are difficult to ascertain which coupled with the lack of any sort of vampire activity like feeding on humans makes it hard to see Adam and Eve as vampires and not just reclusive intellectuals.  In addition, when the two consume blood it has a euphoric, almost drug induced effect on them which leads to drawn out scenes of psychedelic dancing and other activities which starts to get a little annoying.  That being said, I understand why the film does it as it shows that at their core, they are still creatures with the primal need to feed on the blood of humans.  Something that is inescapable despite their extremely civilized and intellectual existence. 
           In the end, the film is a very interesting take on the vampire myth and is done in a way that allows you to focus on the experience of a vampire; what their day to day mentality is and what their personality has developed into over centuries of life as opposed to watching them fight werewolves.  While I would have LOVED to see some historical reenactment in the form of flashbacks as I think that is what contributes to some of the greatest vampire movies ever, I still think that there was enough historical reference to keep you smiling.  Only Lovers Left Alive is a film that sacrifices the big budget blockbuster aspects of most vampire stories of today in favor of a more low key love story.  It is simply another chapter in the long lives of these two lovers which we get to look in on, and that is what makes the film so unique.

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