Admittedly, as a fan of the vampire genre, I’ve recently felt fatigue over the abundance of films, books, television, graphic novels, etc., devoted to this sensual blood-drinking creature. But then Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” opens, and it’s as if a breath of life (or shall I say a breath of immortality) has been injected into the genre.
Starring the ultra-hip Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve (named via a Jarmusch nod to Mark Twain’s “The Diaries of Adam and Eve”), “Only Lovers Left Alive,” is an intriguing meditation on humanity, as well as familial and long-term love. In this rendering, Adam and Eve exist within our world, yet on another realm. That they are vampires is simply beside the point.
The two lovers are introduced via spinning night skies and rotating vinyl records that match slow, revolving over-the-head shots of a sprawled Eve in her Tangier apartment and Adam in his musically cluttered Detroit residence. Seconds into the narrative, we’re witnessing Jarmusch and his director of photography Yorick Le Saux’s creatively cool compositions. Although apart, these two lovers are connected through their centuries of immortality and creative, visual framings.
Eve is older (3000 years-old) and a watcher and observer of all of society’s atrocities and blessings. She voraciously consumes all forms of literature, art, and music. Her neighbor in Tangier is Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), who supplies her with the good stuff (pure hospital blood), and shares with her his literary musings, including his claim that he wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
Adam on the other hand is finding himself morbidly depressed. A younger vampire, Adam feels that society is literally on the edge of destroying itself. Although a master musician, (he gave to Schubert an Adagio to a String Quartet), Adam can’t reap the rewards of a modern rock star and can only be anonymous. But his reclusiveness makes him all the more popular to his underground fans who are fed his music through Adam’s human (“zombie”) assistant, Ian (Anton Yelchin).
Feeling that Adam is at the end of his tether, Eve travels to Detroit to be with her lover. Upon arrival, their passion is immediate and pure; these lone wolves are intertwined again. Their relationship is the essence of long-distance and long-term.
In preparing for the role, Tilda Swinton mentioned last month during a press tour held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, that she and Jarmusch saw these characters as animals, as wolves. She revealed, “When we were putting together their look, we ended up filling those wigs … [with] yak’s hair and wolf’s hair.” Swinton added, “There’s a heartbeat in the film which comes up and down in the soundtrack, which is actually a wolf’s heart.”
In addition to its stylish and cool cast, which includes Mia Wasikowska as Eve’s dangerously wild, younger sister, and Jeffrey Wright as a corrupt hospital blood supplier, “Only Lovers Left Alive” showcases a haunting soundtrack. Jozef Van Wissem scored the film and won the Cannes Soundtrack Award for Best Score at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Jarmusch’s band, Squrl supplies additional tunes.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” might be the most unique and mesmerizing take on vampires and true love to date.