CIFF vamps up the vampires

April 2nd, 2014



Director Jim Jarmusch’s latest gothic masterpiece, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” screened on Sunday, March 23 at the Cleveland International Film Festival. The darkly witty, beautifully-shot vampire love story offers a smart and original take on the attempted paranormal romance genre.


Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston sizzle as Adam and Eve: ethereal, elitist vampire lovers. Hiddleston and Swinton both capture the swagger of rock stars, from the melodic sounds of their voices to the way they strut down the streets of Tangier and Detroit to Swinton’s completely uninhibited and carefree dance moves.


The film has the feel of one continuous glam-rock music video, kicking off with the moody opening scene in which the camera focuses on rotating record, then moves on to a rotating view of the elaborately-costumed vamps from above.


At its core, the unassumingly weird and funny film is a passionate, centuries-old love story. These vampires are brooding, but not vicious – the film shies away from blood and gore (except for the pure blood the vampires occasionally swig from tiny chalices). Instead, they find pleasure in the little things, like sucking on blood popsicles and taking long, exploratory nighttime drives together.


Jarmusch A&L

Adam and Eve refer to anyone who is not a vampire as a zombie.


Adam idolizes some of the zombies, such as his favorite writers, artists and scientists, whom he commemorates on an expansive photo wall. But many disappoint him, and he often feels suicidal at the thought of the state of the world.


Mia Wasikowska brings a youthful, exuberant energy to the film as the reckless Ava, Eve’s vampire sister, who wreaks havoc on the duo’s relationship when she pays an unexpected visit.


The film uses two distinct settings to showcase its characters. The story is mainly set against the stunningly beautiful decaying backdrop of Detroit to the mesmerizing Tangier, Morocco.


The beauty of this film is in the details. An expertly-curated soundtrack complements the tone of the film.


The costumes speak for the characters before the viewer even learns their stories – right down to the black and white Tibetan skulls that Adam and Eve each wear whether together or apart.


Swinton sports cream-and-gold colored costumes and wildly teased hair, while Hiddleston typically wanders around shirtless and bedraggled in his dilapidated Detroit mansion.


There’s a joke in the film for Clevelanders, too: when Adam suddenly and mysteriously appears in the hospital, the doctor who provides him with blood in exchange for cash mutters, “That guy’s gotta be from Cleveland.”


Jarmusch was in attendance during the screening at Tower City Cinemas and treated the audience to a question and answer session after the film. His wildly unkept gray hair and vampiric all-black attire made him appear as if he strolled right out of the screen as a character in the film.


“Only Lovers Left Alive” received accolades at several festivals, including Sundance and Toronto.


At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the festival. The film will be released in the U.S. on April 11.


For more information on “Only Lovers Left Alive” and the Cleveland International Film Festival, visit their website.