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Only Lovers Left Alive
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Reviewed by: Dana Keller

It is difficult to find anything to say about Only Lovers Left Alive beyond confirming that which everyone else has already said: the film’s enchanting atmosphere is achieved through rich set design, a luscious score, and strong performances; all of which are connected by a thread of charming pretension.

Only Lovers Left Alive peers into a brief moment in the long lives of a vampire couple: Adam and Eve, played by beautiful androgynes Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. When we first meet them, Adam is living in a decrepit-decadent (decrepadent?) mansion on the outskirts of Detroit, and Eve is living in an equally decadent, though less decrepit-looking apartment in Tangier. Both are depicted as small figures floating in a vast sea of cultural paraphernalia that floods their respective homes. Adam covets guitars and Eve cherishes books, but more than anything else, they adore each other.

The two are like night and day, Adam angsty in black and Eve joyful in white. Perhaps that’s why they have lasted so long, balancing each other like yin and yang. Despite their differences, the two do not have significant relationship drama, which makes their story refreshing. Such a lack of drama might render many films rather dull, but in Only Lovers Left Alive it is a strength and a welcome change from more traditional love stories.

Instead, focus is drawn to the intricacies of survival. For Adam and Eve such survival is achieved through discovering what they love and then nurturing it as best they can. The moral of the story seems to be that we must never lose sight of the beauty that our world has to offer. Indeed, we must find that beauty and sustain it, nurture it, love it as best we can.

Like its vampire inhabitants, Only Lovers Left Alive comprises a seductive balance of beauty and brains. It would be easy enough to enjoy the film on a purely sensual level, but those who wish to delve deeper will also find at least a few ideas to bounce between…even if many of those ideas are perhaps a bit trite and predictable.

Though the film may lack the melodrama of a traditional love story, it still addresses many of the same themes: time, love, friendship, (im)mortality, technology, culture, sustainability. But it would be difficult (and perhaps even a little unreasonable) to make a film about vampires, or anything for that matter, without touching on at least some of those concepts. What’s more important is that the film deals with those themes in somewhat new and interesting ways.

In Only Lovers Left Alive old and new collide in a way that makes it feel as though time itself has slowed down. Each scene falls on the audience’s senses like honey drizzled on a waiting tongue. It is a truly delicious experience.

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