A tale of vampire love
Only Lovers Left Alive (15A)
Anyone who goes to a Jim Jarmusch film knows they can expect the unexpected. If David Lynch is ‘Jimmy Stewart from Mars’, as he was once dubbed, Jarmusch is more akin to Andy Warhol from Jupiter.
Here he offers us a mesmeric tale of vampire love spanning many centuries. Its release has been timed to roughly coincide with St Valentine's Day but maybe Halloween might have been more appropriate as it's the kind of film that will appeal more to a gothic audience than a traditional romantic one.
What romance there is is of the fin–de–siècle variety. Jarmusch has crafted a psychedelic tale with a rich texture, many of the frames reminiscent of Renaissance paintings. We go from the grubby back streets of Tangiers and the enigmatic Eve (Tilda Swinton) to the crumbling Detroit mansion where the Byronic rock star Adam (Tom Hiddleston) resides with his vintage guitars. And his angst.
By now you will have twigged the biblical parallels. Into their self-obsessed Garden of Eden comes Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), a bubbly young girl who looks (and acts) like a latterday Janis Joplin. Her unscheduled appearance in their hermetically-sealed cosmos gives the film what small plot it has: she disturbs their near-ontological sense of togetherness.
After her arrival Jarmusch still continues with his susurrating mood music, his brooding visuals, his hypnotic brilliance. The film sucks you into its heady ambience and keeps you there for two hours.
Will Adam shoot himself with the wooden bullet he's had made for himself at such expense? Will Eve tire of his Malthusian reflections? Will Ava be the poisoned apple in their decaying dreamworld?
The film will disturb some and bore others but to those willing to succumb to its eclectic riches it is, once again, an opportunity to inhabit a Stygian demi-monde that's fascinatingly surreal.
John Hurt plays the playwright Christopher Marlowe, a man over four centuries old and still insisting that he's the "real" author of Hamlet rather than Shakespeare (whom he refers to as an "illiterate, soppy philistine").
The fact that we can suspend disbelief enough to accept the fact that a young man like Adam can have seen Eddie Cochrane play live (and not on YouTube, as he pretends to his ‘zombie’ colleague Ian) and hobnobbed with the likes of Schubert and Galileo is a tribute to Jarmusch's ability to enwreathe us within his puckish parameters.
You're tempted to laugh betimes – at, say, at the merging of Skype and historical verisimilitude – but it would be ungracious to do that.
And it would break the spell Jarmusch so conscientiously weaves.