Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Only-Lovers-Left-Alive-2013Only Lovers Left Alive

My rating: 8 / 10

This film is not about vampires. It is not horror. That is merely the backdrop to explain the ageless perspective of the philosophy. Aged vampires who no longer prey on humans. (Warning: Spoilers)

Tom Hiddleston plays Adam, a centuries-old vampire who, like Anne Rice’s Lestat, is a rock star; but unlike Lestat, he does not seek vain attention, he simply loves the music. He is tired of living, however, and contemplates ending his long life due to its futility. He is frustrated with the direction human culture has taken, and the scenery of Detroit reflects the world as Adam perceives it. The futility of human effort, so short-lived, short-sighted. Ugly. He is offended by the ugliness of human invention and industry, commenting twice on ugly power lines cluttering the architecture.

He is an inventor, scientist, engineer, who knew Newton, Einstein, Tesla, and is depressed that Tesla’s wireless power grid was discarded in favor of an ugly wired grid. He ponders the choices humans have made for the worse, which led to the world being polluted and ugly. The beautiful works of art are long gone. His love for music and his work are not about ego and image. He wants nothing more than to be left alone, but he does love to create music. He says it is for the art, not the glory.

Tilda Swinton plays Eve, the wife of Adam, who lives in Tangiers, and calls Adam one day after many years. Sensing his depression, she travels to his home in Detroit to cheer him up, and mostly succeeds. She is a marvelous contrast to Adam, with her long, bright white hair next to his long, shiny black locks. I have less to say about her since she seemed to me a contrast to Adam, long partners in love who separate at times so they don’t become bored with each other. Decades will do that, let alone centuries.

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There are many scenes where Adam and Eve drive through Detroit, marveling at the beautiful architecture and loathing how it has decayed. This seemed to me, possibly, to represent the destruction of Earth’s environment, but I can’t quite tell if that’s exactly what the director was going for. The world is a mess, and only someone who saw it when it was beautiful could appreciate how bad it has become.

No, I do believe their names give away the intention. Not environmentalism, exactly, but a parody of the literal Adam and Eve story. Who were similarly immortal until they fell from grace. They lived in a beautiful world and sin brought their downfall.

Perhaps Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), represents the tempter, the serpent, the devil, who brought “sin” into their lives. This doesn’t quite work, but it’s my best guess at the scriptwriter’s intention. She consumes all their “good blood” and then Eve invites Adam to leave his home behind (The Garden of Eden?) and come with her to Algiers (outside the garden), where she promises her supplier will give them good blood, and she’ll buy him new instruments. He’ll leave his old collection behind. This, to me, represents the loss upon leaving the garden. The loss of his tranquility, but also the loss of futility and boredom.

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The forbidden fruit is eaten in the final scene. What happens next? They bemoan the lack of pure blood, discuss how humans blood is full of “muck” and watered down. But they must eat. Is this a good or bad thing? Hard to say, up to the viewer, I expect. I took it to mean, a new start, a rebirth, but it might represent “tilling the ground” to raise food. Whereas, in the garden, they merely picked the fruit and ate.

Adam repeatedly calls humans zombies and sleepers, not due to their nature as mortals but due to their lack of attention, their stumbling along through life taking whatever they can get and no longer thinking about solving any problems. I found it hilarious reading the negative reviews of this film. Such dull viewers are like the literal-minded zombies in the film, who simply can’t comprehend art; they might be presented with an apple by a serpent in a garden and see nothing more to the situation than the edibility of the apple. This is a philosophical film that spawns questions in the attentive viewer. I was fascinated by the questions raised in me.

Have you seen the film? What did you think?

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