Only Lovers Left Alive

Indie trailblazer Jim Jarmusch’s wry Only Lovers Left Alive is the writer/director’s foray into the realm of the undead, and comes across like Twilight for hip adults. It’s largely uneventful narrative will undoubtedly divide audiences– but if you like Jarmusch, you’re bound to enjoy this.

A brilliant, hypnotically disorientating opening sequence introduces us to vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) in the throes of blood induced highs in their respective abodes. Adam lives in a shabby mansion in a virtually deserted Detroit neighbourhood, surrounded by musical instruments and electronics. Eve lives in an exotic flat in Tangiers. They go about the routine of scoring blood from their suppliers (reinforcing the blood/drug metaphor), Adam buying from a doctor in a hospital lab and Eve from her friend and fellow vampire Christopher Marlowe (yes, that Christopher Marlowe, alleged author of Shakespeare’s plays). Adam is clearly listless and depressed, even going so far as to have a special wooden bullet made by his shady supplier of various things including guitars. He is lonely and pines for Eve, and she agrees to fly to Detroit to be with him.

Many of the vampire tropes are present and accounted for, and this is not as revisionist as the director’s Western Dead Man. The cast plays it almost entirely straight, with Jarmusch employing his usual deadpan, knowing humour in throwaway lines and references which he expects his audience to be in on. Much is left unexplained, and there is little exposition or back story. We don’t know why the couple are living in separate countries as they clearly adore each other. Adam is a mysterious, reclusive rock star of some sort, but little is revealed about why he withdrew from public view (although having to stay in during daylight hours is probably as good a reason as any).

While some may find the lack of explanation frustrating, for others it will enhance the intriguing nature of the characters and their relationship. This may be one for Jarmusch fans only.


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Ian Gilchrist
I've worked in entertainment product development and sales & marketing in the U.S., UK and my native Canada for over 20 years, and have been a part of many changes during that time (I've overseen home entertainment releases on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray). I've also written and commentated about film and music for many outlets over the years. The first film I saw in the cinema was Mary Poppins, some time in the mid-60s: I was hooked. My love of the moving image remains as strong as ever.