Only Lovers Left Alive; or Carpe Noctem


Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursday, where we review films featuring characters who suck…blood. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they sit around and reminisce about when humankind really went wrong.

Today’s film offering: Only Lovers Left Alive

Lilly: You all have no idea how long I’ve been trying to get Andy to watch this film. I’m not entirely sure I didn’t suggest the theme of vampires for Thursday just so I’d have an excuse. Ever since it was announced Tilda Swinton (yesss) and Tom Hiddleston (Hiddleyesss) were going to be in a vampire film, I was on board. But. I don’t have to convince him to watch it anymore, now it is you lot I have to work on, so! Here we go!

Andy: It’s worth starting out mentioning that this film is really, really good. Really good. I should have watched it some time ago. It may be my favourite new film I’ve seen this year. 

Lilly: Only Lovers Left Alive is the story of two vampires who have spent their immortal lives intertwined, living together and apart all while desperately, deeply in love. Their relationship is compared to Einstein’s “spukhafte Fernwirkung” or “spooky action at a distance” entanglement theory. These vampires are intellectual romantics and the film does not shy away from that. And while Adam reminds you of the melancholic vampires of Interview with the Vampire (see our review from last week!), the main difference is that he suffers depression not due to his love for humanity and his desire to grasp onto it, but rather the opposite. He detests humans (or ‘zombies’ as he refers to them) and doesn’t want to put up with them anymore. Yes, this is the story of a vampire who wants to end it all–and apparently not for the first time has this desire struck.

Andy: It’s actually a very good representation on film of depression. He doesn’t want to die because he’s sad; he wants to die because he feels nothing any more. Ennui and disaffection have seeped into his soul, and he’s stuck in a rut, to put it mildly.

Lilly: The mirror opposite and perfect fit for Adam is Eve (aha, get it?), a vampire who loves life, engages with her environment, and, while she acknowledges the world can be difficult, sees life as something to cherished. She can have that view and not be contradictory due to the fact that vampires in this world don’t need to feed off the blood of innocents and drain them dry–in fact, a small glass of blood, practically a shot, seems to do them well. She even comments at one point that draining a human dry and killing them is ‘13th century’ of a vampire to do. So not civilized. Love it.

Andy: Plus this is one of the very small number of films to show immortality being done right. If you had all the time in the world, of course you would speak a dozen languages, play a dozen different instruments and read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion in the original Kanji script. I mean, I would. What you do with your eternal lifespan is your business.

Lilly: So, if it’s not obvious, I really enjoyed this film. Unlike some vampire films that explore immortality (seelastweeksreview) with a sort of lazy ache about missing out on human experiences, this one seamlessly moves between the two viewpoints of the protagonists. Adam doesn’t want to be alive anymore because the zombies around him are so aggravating while Eve embraces life of all sorts and faces each night with a fresh new curiosity to explore. And either viewpoint seems valid, really, the optimism and pessimism of living forever perfectly explored.

Andy: Yes. It’s so, so good to see a movie that doesn’t conflate vampirism with nihilism. That’s one of the reasons myself and many vampire movies may not have got on. As the great philosopher Harvey Danger once said, if you’re bored, then you’re boring.

Lilly: And oh, the beauty of the film! Using shots that echo drug use scenes in Trainspotting for when they feed, the visual of what it is like to drink blood in this universe is captured in expressions of satisfaction and ecstasy. Long shots of beautifully chaotic rooms, Eve’s costume designs, suitcases full of books–Yes, yes, yes. If that is what being a vampire is, sign me up.

The mythology of the vampires is also intriguing. Their eyes are made to glow unnaturally, so they wear shades. They have hands cold as death, so they wear gloves. They do not have to be invited in, but it is considered ‘bad luck’ to cross a threshold uninvited. Wooden stakes are still a threat, and fast movement is a staple that isn’t left out. Then there is the very interesting use of dreams to ‘call out’ to other vampires, the appearance of Eve’s sister in not only her dreams, but Adam’s (plus their friend Kit’s, or rather, Christopher Marlowe, played by John Hurt) is a sign she is looking for them. Beautiful. I love it. They have lived forever, so name drop names like Tesla, Byron, Shakespeare. Of course! And why not! Throw in the drama about blood being more and more contaminated due to the environment humans are living in, so vampires have to seek out the ‘good stuff’ from specialised doctors, and well. Yes, please, thank you, please.

To sum up (because otherwise I would go on about this for ages), as said before, we both really enjoyed this movie, so go, find it, watch it, enjoy!


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