Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ten Reasons Why 'Only Lovers Left Alive' is the Best Movie I've Ever Seen

After a lot of waiting and a lot of overwhelming fears that this movie would never be released in my state, I finally saw Only Lovers Left Alive.


And here's ten reasons why.

1) The Cast
This cast cannot be beat. Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt -it's marvelous and beautiful and I love whoever did the casting for this film. The actors are so attuned to their roles that while the are still generally recognizable, they aren't by their actions and I found myself more or less forgetting who was before my eyes (though Anton Yelchin's character took me back a bit to Charlie Bartlett, but that came with the role, I think).

2) It's a vampire movie that doesn't discuss vampirism. 
Stakes, garlic, blood - all of these things are relevant mentioned, but I don't remember the word "vampire" actually being used by anyone. There are no vampire hunters, there aren't battles between vampires and some foe, there isn't in-depth discussion about how one becomes a vampire or where they came from initially, and there seems to be no awareness from humanity that vampires actually exist. It's a nice change from other books that, while they may create really interesting back stories and add to the mythology of vampires, sometimes focuses on this more on the daily life of vampires as if they casually co-inhabited the world and we humans are none the wiser. Also, the fact that there's no Bella Swan moments of, "I know what you are." "Say it." makes me so very pleased. Which brings me to...

3) This nullifies my whole Twilight fandom days, right?
Probably not. It is nice to see the vampire myth get reworked in a sexy but not ridiculous way. However, this nullifies nothing for me - if anything, it probably exacerbates the whole issue because the character of Adam is exactly what I wanted Edward to be - a kind of angsty but mature, intellectual vampire who you can't help but like even though he's pretty negative towards humans (calling us zombies, for crying out loud) and convincing me that once Hamlet gets out of his emo days, he totally becomes a hipster. He doesn't watch young teenage girls while they sleep or attend high school classes because he'd much rather spend his time being a secret rock god in his half-demolished house on the outskirts of Detroit and debate about whether his immortal life is really worth living. Is there a high school girl who smells like his particular brand of cocaine? Um, no, there's not. And thank God for it. 

4) Um, yes I would like to apply to argue with vampires because of reasons.
Remember that bit where I mentioned that Adam calls humans zombies? Yeah, I'd love to debate that with him for the next half century. Because I'm pretty sure he has some good points, but it's also somewhat incorrect. The main characters Adam and Eve (yes, I know; read into it and enjoy the hell out of it) have a love-hate relationship with humans. On one hand, we humans have done really brilliant things - we've got marvelous scientists and poets and musicians and philosophers. But here recently humans have apparently been sucking quite a bit (do not make a pun on sucking, I swear...) and kind of failing at...whatever it is we're supposed to be doing in our weird world. Which we're destroying and causing our blood to be kind of poisonous and often undrinkable for our secretive vampiric brethren. I love this plot point - for once, it's not vampire blood that's poisonous, as it is in so many tales. For example, in Dracula, Mina Harper says, "There is a poison in my blood, in my soul, which may destroy me; which must destroy me, unless some relief comes to us" (Stoker 454) (I did not go out of my way to find this quote - I was conveniently rereading Dracula when I wrote this). But here, it the humans who are causing problems and killing vampires with their blood. Vampires are generally pretty chill and don't seem overly fond of killing humans - though it seems they do so if they're super hungry and kind of immature, or if they absolutely have to in order to survive (in which case they'll most likely turn you and, yay, newbie vampires!). But instead of preying upon humans, these vampires get their blood - specifically O negative - through doctors or other means, and go for the really pure stuff that isn't bogged down with whatever makes it dangerous. Anyway, vampires respect us, but they also seem to think we're a bit daft. And I would love to debate a vampire about that and see how horrifically I fail.

5) The esthetic of this film is BRILLIANT.
Muscle cars, lutes, Tangiers, appreciation equally for science and for art, stunning cinematography, witty dialogue, gritty and luxuriant scenery - this film is jam-packed full of it all and it works. I don't know why Adam driving a muscle car and living in the urban decay of Detriot, making music in what was once Motown and building his own generator out of old parts is so wonderful, and I don't know why the flat in Tangiers full of books and bright colors, contrasting with Eve's paleness is so pefect for her, but it is. Also, Tangiers makes me think of the music of the Deux Love Orchestra, none of which I can find on Youtube (at least not the songs I wanted), so check them out here in iTunes if you're interested.

I also love that the vampires wear gloves and sunglasses frequently, that they only drink O negative blood, that they don't go outside during they day and it's not clear whether they can't or just won't, and a thousand other little things that are never explained why and left to the imagination to mull over for the rest of eternity. Brilliant, I love it.

6) I don't know what it is about vampires and destroying human flesh with acid but it's creepy and I love it.
In the film Let the Right One In, there is a horrific scene involving acid. There is also a scene of the same nature in Only Lovers Left Alive, which is far less horrific, but still creepy. For some reason, this works for me as a new trope of vampire mythology. Maybe it has something to do with how vampires are thought to be burned in sunlight and so tables are turned and human flesh is burned by acid instead. Who knows. Regardless, it's efficient, creepy, and never fails to make me nervous about vampire intellect and powers.

Also, doctor's scrubs are way more unnerving than I thought they were. Just so you know.

7) I will now proceed to listen to the soundtrack every day for the rest of my life.
I recently discovered that my appreciation for the lute has not been recognized enough in my life. This film and soundtrack aid in that. Also, the music is a great mix of... I don't know, grungy kind of rock with funeral dirge with experimental string/electronic effects, and strains of Middle Eastern ragas and Arabic pop, along with some Western Classical elements and maybe just a hint of Motown and funk... Regardless, it's brilliant and I've listened to it nearly ten times already. Here's what I think might be my favorite track from it though:

8) I'm starting a band called Soul Dracula and you can't stop me.
"Soul Dracula" is a thing that Mia Wasikowska's character Ava discovers on Youtube (yes, vampires use Youtube. Eve has an Iphone. Adam eschews most modern technology because he's a super hipster that would rather rig up a camera-television-telephone system to video chat with Eve instead of buying a new computer). I present it to you now, because it's actually on Youtube and it makes my life.

I just think this would make a really great band name. And I think a video of this nature really needs to be a part of my life somehow.

9) Can all movies delve into random discussion of Spooky Action at a Distance, naming plants in Latin, and packing books in suitcases for travel while also dealing with some low-culture stuff (looking at you, Soul Dracula)?
I think my favorite part of this movie is all the interesting little tangental things that are discussed by Adam and Eve throughout. There's Einstein's theory of Spooky Action at a Distance, they name plants and animals in Latin (because, if you're going to live forever, you might as well learn these things), they talk about stars that make sounds like gongs, Adam buys beautiful musical instruments and talks about that time he wrote a movement in a piece for a famous composer (the name of the composer escapes me at the moment - was it Brahms? Grr, I don't recall...). Also, this film includes perhaps the best inclusion of a famous person as a character since Craig Ferguson included Carl Jung in his book Between the Bridge and the River. It's not really a spoiler but I didn't know this until Entertainment Weekly stated so in their review, but John Hurt plays Christopher Marlowe AND IT IS AMAZING. But my favorite part of the film? When Eve leaves Tangiers to visit Adam, she packs her luggage - not with clothing, but with books. I feel this on a spiritual level.

I also have a thing for vintage cars so... good job with whoever's idea this was.

And we're not even getting into the themes of this movie: love, life, death, what exactly being humans mean (and who knows, because these are some pretty human-acting vampires), what happens when looking forward doesn't look as good as it does looking back, what the meaning of life is... you know, that sort of thing. They're all dealt with in really interesting ways but that's probably a thesis, not a blog post, and I'm going to let all that be.

10) Basically this film reinforces how hipster I am and I do not care.
So this film is probably uber hipster and I really am not ashamed to love it. Sometimes the world needs more hipster - especially of this caliber.

If you haven't seen this film, I strongly recommend it. Because it's a bloody marvel.


Citations from:
Dracula by Bram Stoker. London: Puffin Books, 1994.


  1. Nice! Enjoyed the film on many levels: Schubert was the composer he wrote a piece for. Loved the lute at the beginning and the oud at the end: the music was amazing throughout.

    1. Schubert! That's right. Figures... Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony" is one of my all time favorite classical pieces :P

      And thank you for mentioning the oud; I've been trying to remember the name of that instrument since I saw the film and couldn't come up with it! We had a musician perform that instrument in a world music class I took my freshman year at the U and it's been one of my favorite instruments since.