Yesterday afternoon I went to see a screening of Jim Jarmusch’s new film ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ at the London Film Festival. This is a moody but humorous story centred around vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) who have been lounging about the world – presumably since the dawn of creation. Rather than being portrayed as supreme beings they are shown to be down to earth individuals who continue to have lovers’ spats and exist in perpetual crisis of either being caught in the sunshine or not getting enough blood to subsist on. Eve resides in Tangiers reading through her favourite books and conversing with the writer Christopher Marlowe who is also a vampire. Frustrated artist Adam has a reclusive existence in Detroit making experimental music, moaning about how fed up he is with “zombies” and dodging a faithful legion of rocker fans. The two meet up after a long period of separation, have an unsettling encounter with Eve’s sister Ava and ponder the stumbling progression of the human race. Along the way there are a string of amusing literary references about writers Adam and Eve have known. Adam complains about what a horrible person Byron was and Marlowe pouts about Shakespeare taking credit for all the work which he produced after he became a vampire but couldn’t release under his own name because he was dead. The script is light-hearted and clever in a way that isn’t as pretentious as Woody Allen’s 'Midnight in Paris' which also playfully invokes a lot of literary characters from history.
The film is really made by excellent performances from Hiddleston, Swinton and John Hurt who plays Marlowe. Hiddleston plays Adam like a mopey teenager perpetually moaning about things, showing a geeky fascination with electronics and collecting rare instruments. Hiddleston is a very versatile actor who can transform himself into a wide range of characters. I saw another fascinating film called ‘Exhibition’ at the Festival on Saturday which features Hiddleston in a minor but funny role of an estate agent. With her other-worldly beauty Swinton is perfect playing the bookish vampire and first woman of creation Eve. She reads through novels scanning the pages in seconds in a way that made me incredibly jealous of how much reading she can get through. She speaks to animals that pass her by and mushrooms growing out of season. Although, she is intellectual and polite she is shown at the end to be someone who is also fearsome and terrifying. This is a really amusing film that’s well worth seeing.