Only Lovers Left Alive

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on June 01, 2014

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Dear Sara Driver
Instigation and Inspiration

Dear Sara,

Your credit at the end of _Only Lovers Left Alive _might be one of my favorites ever. I was scrambling to imagine what kind of person could not only have inspired Jim Jarmusch to create this emo-goth opus, but also spurred him into action. If your personal energy is anything at all like the characters and mood of the film, I can't imagine how such a resigned and forlorn person could play the role of motivator. Then again, maybe you're just an old-soul, a bleeding-heart romantic, and possess an equal measure of self-destructive pathos and straight-faced sense of humour.

Or maybe you're actually a centuries-old vampire.

Let's go with the latter.

If this is the case, you must first admit that no mortal actor is more naturally equipped to play a classic bloodsucker than Tilda Swinton. She didn't even have to open her mouth before I believed fully and completely in her portrayal of Eve. From her first moment onscreen, in that beautiful sequence where she lies lifeless on a Victorian-style bed with the camera twisting backwards, the despairing tone of the film is unmistakable. The score by SQÜRL certainly helps, with its reverberating guitar chords that claw under your skin. But there's a lively spirit throughout, too, buoyed by deadpan one-liners and the occasional blood popsicles. The approach is refreshing in a tired genre: vampires who aren't suave or sweaty, but hauntingly cool.

They're musical geniuses, too--at least in the case of Tom Hiddleston's Adam (a.k.a. Jared Leto's doppleganger). He's your prototypical burnt-out rock star, energized only when driving past Jack White's childhood home or reminiscing about how he gave Schubert the adagio for his quintet. Not be outdone is John Hurt as the eldest vamp, who takes credit for Shakespeare's biggest hits.

These references to classic art influenced by outside sources could be an homage to you, since Jarmusch has previously credited you as a story consultant on Ghost Dog, a production "troubleshooter" on Down By Law, and even as his inspiration for Broken Flowers. Not to mention that you were the "Girl with Hat" in his 1984 breakout indie film Stranger Than Paradise. No wonder you kept egging him on to make this film; he's helping to write your legacy.

Which leads me to believe you're most like the character of Ava, who is this film's real lifeblood. Sure she's a comically spoiled minx, rendered perfectly by Mia Wasikoswka, but she's also responsible for most of the story's action. Her drifting attention span and stubbornness is a perfect foil to the laconic lovers, and she's impossible not to adore. Even for a tormented independent artist.

Thanks goodness you both helped push this film over the top.

Inspired and instigated,


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