We’ve just finished Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States. For me and my family, it’s always a big movie weekend and one of the movies we had the pleasure of watching was the vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive. The vampires of this film were refreshing in that they seemed to have more in common with the best literary vampires than with most of their cinematic cousins. In fact, even though we have creatures with fangs who obviously subsist on blood, the word vampire was never used in the film.
Only Lovers Left Alive came out in 2013 and features a who’s who cast from science fiction, fantasy, and super hero films. Tom Hiddleston, best known as Loki in The Avengers and Thor plays Adam, a vampire who loves music and lives in a Gothic house in a deserted Detroit neighborhood. Tilda Swinton, who played the White Witch in the Narnia films, plays Eve, his book-loving wife who lives in Tangier. John Hurt, who of course was the alien’s first victim in Alien and recently became the War Doctor in Doctor Who plays Christopher Marlowe, a writer from history who now lives in Tangier as a vampire. Anton Yelchin, who played Ensign Chekov in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek films, plays Ian, a human gopher who gets anything Adam needs in exchange for money. And I can keep going. It’s worth looking up the movie on the Internet Movie Database just to see where you’ve seen these folks before.
One of the things I found refreshing in the film was that Tilda Swinton, an actress in her 50s, was cast as a romantic lead and paired with the much younger Tom Hiddelston. Their pairing felt completely natural, which is a testament to the actors’ skill, and was a nice change from men in their 50’s being shown romantically attached to much younger women.
The film’s plot is fairly simple. Adam finds himself in a rut and asks Eve to join him in Detroit. Just as they’re getting comfortable in his Detroit home, Eve’s sister—also a vampire—crashes at their place and disrupts their lives. She eventually commits an act that gets her booted out of the house and both Adam and Eve have to run back to Tangier, only to find that life there won’t be as comfortable as they hoped.
The vampires in this film don’t hunt. Adam purchases blood from the hospital and brings it home. I got the sense that civilized vampires don’t hunt in this world because it will draw unwelcome attention from humans. Also, vampires have to be careful about the quality of the blood they consume because diseases and drugs can affect them—an idea I’ve explored briefly in my Scarlet Order novels. That said, if I have one problem with this film, its that it relies on the old literary trope of blood being a metaphor for drugs. It’s clear that blood does more for the vampires than merely satisfy a hunger and tainted blood is much like tainted drugs.
Despite that issue, it was nice to see several interesting literary and scientific references in the film. The names Adam and Eve actually do not refer to the Bible characters. Rather they refer to Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve. The film also plays with the Marlovian Hypothesis—namely that Shakespeare did not write the plays he’s credited with, but rather they were written by Christopher Marlowe. Adam powers his house with a Tesla generator and Eve speaks about the star BPM 37093 which has a diamond core.
This is a good film to seek out if you’re looking for a smart, literary vampire drama that presents an interesting, stable adult romance rather than showing angsty teens playing at love. Its simple plot allows you to take time and savor the literary references and enjoy the compelling, Gothic soundtrack.
By the way, if you’re looking for a good deal on the Scarlet Order novels, the ebooks are available for 99 cents through December 1, 2015 at Lachesis Publishing. Here are the links: