A cultural vampire film reviewed by Kate Wi
I’m usually not keen on vampire films. Aside from the formative classics like “Dracula” or “Nosferatu”, recent vampire films like “Twilight” left me flat. I’m tired of films where everything revolves around these creature’s habits.
Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” thankfully shows a totally different basis: his protagonists, Adam and Eve, are indeed vampires, but the story itself has its main focus on love, music and literature – all cultural things they have delved into over the centuries.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a melancholic lover of music, keeping a secluded lifestyle in Detroit, has by this time become weary of his undead existence. Formerly being an incognito composer for musicians like Schubert, he now spends his days in his home studio playing slow, extensive rocking funeral music. Although he is strict on keeping it private, he gained fame in the scene as a highly gifted underground musician thanks to his confidant Ian, who is working in the music industry and also provides him with rare and precious music instruments.
Eve (Tilda Swinton), Adam has been married to for ages, spends her time in Tangier, Morocco. There she enjoys reading classical world literature in all conceivable languages. One of her friends, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), is in the film as the author of Shakespeare’s writings.
Although both seem to prefer living in the past, at least they adapted partly to the modern world and communicate over the internet. That’s also when Eve recognises Adam to be at sixes and sevens and takes a plane to him without hesitation.
In this part, Jarmusch’s style of directing emerges, as he never lets the story rush and takes time to tell it. For example, when Adam and Eve take long car drives during the night through deserted Detroit they visit old places which used to be splendid and pompous, but now are forgotten and ruinous; It seemed to me as if Jarmusch tried to remind of Detroit’s illustrious past for a moment.
However, the intimate togetherness which does both good is suddenly interrupted by Eves sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska). But creating some chaos by not having her bloodthirst under control, she is thrown out quite soon again. This leaves Adam and Eve no other choice than to leave Detroit and head to Tangier.
Arrived there, they determine problems with the blood supply. During the whole film, Adam and Eve long for “the good stuff”, which is not intoxicated blood by unhealthy nutrition and environmental pollution, as this would make them sick. In the end they know no other way than to do it “the good old way”.
Comparing this film with other subject related one’s, I come to the point that this one preserves the honour of vampires best. Both, Adam and Eve are cool guys, always wearing sunglasses, leather gloves and having a great individual style in general. Both are highly gifted, either in music – incredible soundtrack by the way, mostly by Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL – or in literature and language, Eve is even able to guess the age of an item by touching it. With their talents they seemed to be responsible for many great works in history, being even a bit snobby about it and calling humans “zombies”. But still, they rely on the continuity of the human beings, as they need their blood to survive. And humans rely on them unknowingly, as otherwise a cultural decline would be likely to happen. An interdependence for eternity.