Spotlight: Affonso Gonçalves, Editor, 'Only Lovers Left Alive'

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Editor Affonso Gonçalves (Beasts of the Southern Wild) admits he was “a little starstruck” when he first sat down to work with director Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law) on Only Lovers Left Alive. The film—concerning the fragile and sensitive vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton)—is a sardonic, deadpan take on the genre. For those familiar with Jarmusch’s work, it will be no surprise that the film has a very different feel from the standard vampire story.

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Tilda Swinton as Eve and Tom Hiddleston as Adam. Photo by Sandro Kopp/Sony Pictures Classics.

How did you and Jim Jarmusch come together?

Affonso Gonçalves: I’d worked with [director] Todd Haynes on the miniseries Mildred Pierce and he recommended me. I think that a lot of it really had to do with my appreciation of music and the fact that I can cut music and sound.

How did you create the mysterious music that Adam plays in the movie?

A lot of it was music Jim and his band Sqürl had recorded, and there was quite a bit by the Dutch composer Josef van Wissem, and Tom played some himself. I kept trying to find the best combination and then show it to Jim and we’d work together.

How many tracks did you work with?

We had 16 tracks in the Avid. We also did a lot of the sound editing during [picture edit]. A lot of the sound work was about really selling the contrast between the two locations, Detroit and Tangier, at night. We had a lot of sounds to work with that had been recorded in those cities during production.

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Photo by Sandro Kopp/Sony Pictures Classics.

Tangier is really alive. You have the call to prayer that permeates that world, and there are people in the street constantly. The Eve character loves to live life that way. Adam prefers Detroit, which is desolate during the day and at night filled with the sounds of coyotes and other animals taking over the city.

How did you and Jim Jarmusch collaborate?

I started work after everything had been shot. Every morning Jim would come to the cutting room here in New York and we would watch footage and I would take notes about what he liked, what he didn’t. Then I would work on the scene all afternoon.

Do you feel that it helps to sit in the same room with the director?

Absolutely. There’s a social aspect to editing. You discuss things, and not just about the scene you’re working on. You talk about ideas that indirectly relate to what you’re working on. My preference is always to be in a room with a director.  

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