SXSW 2014: ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ beautifully examines love in isolation and immortality


Only Lovers Left Alive
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Written by Jim Jarmusch
UK, 2013

Inspired by Mark Twain’s Extracts from Adam’s Diary, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive beautifully explores love and living after immortality siphoned away any semblance of life. Beautifully shot and wonderfully performed, the film eschews the more bombastic side of vampiric lore for a subtle approach exploring immortality and existence.

After having mingled with the likes of Lord Byron and Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), Adam (Tom Hiddleston), is a centuries old vampire who has retreated from society to a home in the carcass of Detroit, living among his analogue music equipment. He admonishes humans as zombies and grudgingly hates them for worshipping inauthenticity over true intellect or talent. Adam is bitter and fatigued. Whether it is his Tesla-engineered electricity system or his penchant for 1905 Gibsons, Adam has not lived in the present for the last few centuries. Eve (Tilda Swinton), on the other hand, has a much larger appreciation for living in the bohemian moment. She uses Facetime to his 1980’s laptop setup and has a clairvoyant appreciation for the age of things in the world around her.

The dichotomy in personalities, color palette, and setting reinforce the idea that two unlikely people can be so deeply in love. Leaving the old world city of Tangier for Detroit, Eve returns to Adam. Scenes are shot and acted with atmospheric, yet natural,  authenticity.

The film draws on much vampiric lore, but treats it with less fetishization and horror. Instead, it emphasizes the condition of immortality. When two people have lived for so long, they become weary and flippantly muse about philosophy, entanglement theory, and geopolitics. Only Lovers Left Alive’ is a love story in the face of a jaded immortality.

Jarmusch crafts a beautifully languid film that explores the dichotomy of lovers. The performances between Tilda Swinton (in particular) and Tom Hiddleston are fantastic. The film is a natural exploration of living and loving in the wake of life; when society has siphoned one’s will, the only context in which to live is through a lover. Dark, wry, and romantic, Only Lovers Left Alive is an alluring piece of filmmaking.


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