Vampires, am I right? For reasons that are beyond my grasp, other than immortality I suppose, Western culture has had a centuries’ long fascination with these mythical creatures. This is admittedly a poor reference for this point, but in my review of What We Do in the Shadows (2014), one of my complaints about vampire lore is the changeable rules. Sometimes they are repelled by Christian symbols, sometimes they are fine with Crosses. In others, they can walk about in the sunlight and sparkle, and in some they instantly combust when the slightest ray lands on their pale skin. And then there are movies like Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). I guess one explanation for all these different ways of presenting vampires is that because there are so many examples, creators strive to do something different. Again, then there are movies like Only Lovers Left Alive. It did not help that it took almost a half hour into the film for me to realize these characters were bloodsuckers, and by the end I was literally begging for it to be over.
The two principal lovers in Only Lovers Left Alive are Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). One is a musician of some kind living in Detroit, and the other reads books in Tangiers, Tunisia, or something. They carry on living separate lives. Adam is presented with a series of vintage guitars by his assistant Ian (Anton Yelchin). Eve walks . . . and walks . . . and walks through the streets of Tangiers to meet up with her old friend Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt). They exchange pleasantries, and shopping bags, and then she walks . . . and walks . . . and walks back to her abode. Adam also makes a trip, to the hospital for him, where, dressed as a member of the medical staff, he obtains a number of vials from Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) at the blood bank. Once they are all settled in after their travels, you see Adam, Eve, and Christopher pouring the contents of their selections into delicate cups and drinking. So, finally, we know they are vampires. Something then trips over Eve’s nostalgia bone, and she decides to give Adam a call. Now we learn that the two have been lovers for centuries (married several times as is explained later), but what they are doing on separate continents is never explored. Ever. And instead of having Adam come to the romantic Mediterranean Coast of Northern Africa, Eve decides to go to him in the exotic locale of Detroit. I guess they were going for depressing, and boy did they hit it out of the park. The two are enjoying their reunion until they are intruded upon by Eve’s “younger” sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) dropping in. She, too, is a vampire, but not they calm, obtaining their blood from benign sources like blood banks, variety as are Adam and Eve. Against his better judgment, Adam allows himself to be persuaded Ava to have a night at a local dive bar listening to musicians, along with Eve and Ian. Once they return home and go to sleep for the, er, day, they awake the next night to find that Ava has fed on Ian and killed him. In anger, they throw Ava out and decide to dissolve Ian’s body in a vat of acid that Adam knows about nearby. I guess this is perhaps too much exposure for Adam and Eve, so instead of waiting around for the authorities to figure out what happened to Ian, they decide to go back to Tangiers. The trip is a taxing one, and when they arrive in Africa they had not fed in some time. Their usual source, Christopher, is dying, having consumed contaminated blood. Not wanting to die of hunger, they resort to what they refer to as a fifteenth century solution: they find two people to eat. Before attacking, they agree to turn the lovers they select into vampires as well, and the film ends (mercifully) as Adam and Eve approach the others.
Raise your hand if you saw a point to anything that I mentioned in my summary of Only Lovers Left Alive. Now put your hand down because you are a liar. There is no point to this movie. There are some vague references to science and its beauty, and how non-vampires (who are referred to as zombies) are ruining everything because of their base pursuits. What I will resignedly (as if there is no other option) refer to as the message of the film is that only vampires truly understand what it means to be alive. Everything the zombies do pollutes, and it makes their blood almost unconsumable, which makes it tricky for creatures who rely on it for sustenance. Still, I am not sure what is so great about Adam or Eve’s lives. One might say the fact that they have lived for centuries. Right, well, I found the name dropping of various historical figures they encountered tedious and unlikely. Also, when we first meet Adam he appears to be bored and finished with his long life, asking his assistant for a wooden bullet so that he might end his existence. Once he obtains the projectile, he loads it into a revolver and holds it up to his chest ala a wooden stake. Shame on me as a practicing Catholic for egging him on to pull the trigger, if only for the sake of ending the movie prematurely. And these are the monsters people want to emulate? The title of the film is an oxymoron from a Catholic perspective. In order for vampires to go on living, they must drain the life of another. I do believe that breaks pretty much every tenet of the Catholic Church. What about love? The relationship between Adam and Eve, never mind the ridiculous comparisons it invites to the Biblical pair, is tough to figure out. After watching the film, I asked aloud to no one in particular that if they were so into each other, WHAT IN TARNATION ARE THEY DOING ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE WORLD?! It was like they had two people in different places, started rolling cameras, and made the rest up as they went along.
There is no earthly reason for seeing Only Lovers Left Alive, unless you want to be bored senseless for two hours. My apologies to the person who suggested this film to me, but it had me banging my head on the table in front of me. It just kept going with no discernible direction. It could have ended at any point and it would have made just as much sense as the one they actually filmed. There is drug use and nude scenes to top it all off. I am not saying to avoid such things solely because I am a practicing Catholic and suspect of vampire movies in general. It is also because it is a pointless film that is agonizing to get through to the end.