RELEASE DATE: 17/04/2014
RUN TIME: 2HR 3MIN
The opening of this film harks back to the vampire movies of the past; creepy and gothic, but with a modern twist in the soundtrack. The first scene is a dizzying assault on the senses that lasts long enough to become harsh and uncomfortable. But if you can sit through that without getting motion sickness, things get interesting.
The story moves calculatingly slowly, drawing Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) together after some time apart. Adam shuns the world, his only contact through his human gopher Ian, who acquires rare musical instruments for Adam. Eve revels in Tangiers and her friendship with the vampire Marlowe, but avoids other contact.
Adam’s melancholy calls Eve to his side. We spend what feels like an eternity observing her hope and his derisiveness for humanity, and get the sense that perhaps the message of this film isn’t about love at all, but about the potential of humanity if only we had faultless memories and unlimited time.
Hiddleston is brilliant. He never sinks too far into brooding to become frustrating and laces Adam with just enough spirit to relate to. Swinton is her usual ethereal self, full of nuance. There’s a moment when she communicates centuries of hunger and temptation with just the barest quiver of her lips. It’s mesmerising.
The connection between Adam and Eve is palpable. There’s a little tasteful nudity, but only the one kiss. They dance together adorably, and it’s as though anything more physical in their affection would trivialise it. It's a refreshing departure from the gratuitous sex and violence we've come to expect from supernatural films.
However, while the performances are excellent, the film seems to lose its way, searching for a plot line to anchor it, and never quite finds it. Elements of the story could have provided entire movies on their own (Adam’s Tesla engine and electric car; what happened in Paris in 1929?), but these intrigues are mentioned and then forgotten. It’s as though the film is based on one chapter in a book that only the director has read, and in order to understand the story we need to read the book too.
Hiddleston is brilliant. Swinton is her usual ethereal self, full of nuance.
Costuming, set dressing and the glimpses of broken Detroit and simmering Tangiers are full of detail. Nothing has been overlooked in the visual appeal of the film. The soundtrack is something unbelievable; an eclectic mix of classical mashed with trance, with an old rock staple thrown in now and then.
But oh, dear God, the hair. This film had so many WTF moments I was struggling to find anything to focus on. A couple of surprisingly hilarious one-liners and a shock moment keep us guessing.
I can’t say it’s a bad movie. It’s not at all. This is a story of an ancient love and a commentary of the human condition as observed from the outside. There’s a scene in a derelict theatre that attempts to tell us that we have this enormous creative potential, we’ve built such beautiful things, but we squander our talent and waste our creations. And it’s a tragedy. Which is probably what this film is. A tragedy about trying to rise above one’s nature, but getting pulled right back down again.
The thing about ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is that it’s worth watching, but you’re not quite sure why.