Last Sunday was the second time I watched Only Lovers left Alive. The first time was as a 99c movie after I had heard an interview with John Hurt, who is one of its stars. He was being interviewed about another film but was so enthusiastic about having the chance to work on this project that it piqued my interest.
I normally steer well clear of horror, but will make the occasional exception. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was more about getting through school and young adulthood, with the horror plots providing a running metaphor. I also rented Crimson Peak the other day, and it had been my intention to watch that, but I happened to notice Only Lovers was available via a TV on-demand service and thought I would just watch the first ten minutes to check if I did like it as much as I had remembered.
I guess I must have, as I did not move until the end of the film.
The film opens with opposing but mirrored shots of the two main characters: Tom Hiddleston, a dark and gloomy musician living in Detroit and his wife, the very strikingly pale Tilda Swinton living in Tangiers. If the first few minutes, with its 45 rpm single slowed to album speed as the shot revolves and switches between the two lovers of the title is too slow for you, it is possible that the movie will also fail too, it is big on the atmospherics of setting and speed. This was not the case with me. I liked the movie the first time I saw it. I loved it the second time.
The plot is simple: the two ancient lovers, currently living on different sides of the world, and existing as modern vampires, spend their days asleep and their nights sourcing blood, through various dealers. Adam (Tom H) has a young assistant, played by Anton Yelchin who runs errands for him, Eve (Tilda) visits her oldest friend, an artist (Tom Hurt) who has lived for hundreds of years as well. Their current existence is disrupted after they reunite and Eve’s disruptive sister (Mia Wasikowska) turns up bringing chaos in her wake.
The film has clear narrative lines and simple striking palette of color and sound. For me the design, which was such as pleasure to watch – the simple ritual details of sunglasses and hats – is much of the joy of the movie. There is, however a dark humour underscoring the narrative and a delight in constrasts: the ancient with the new, the dark and the light, the mundanities of living with the search for artistic satisfaction, the languid behaviour with the threat of underscored violence.
I would have guessed the running time for this movie was around 90 minutes, but I was wrong, it comes in at just a squeak over two hours. Time moves quicker than you think while enjoying a movie that takes its time. I loved it.