UK, Germany, Greece, France. 2013.
123 min.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tilda Swinton (Eve) Tom Hiddleston (Adam), John Hurt (Marlowe)

Going deeper into the vampire mythos.

For those who have a creative talent or the ones who have a hunger for knowledge, one thing that unites them is the lack of time. It seems that there is never enough time to create or to learn. But now imagine if you are a vampire and that this condition gives you centuries to produce artistic work or study any branch of knowledge. This angle to the vampiric life is brought to the screen in Only Lovers Left Alive, by enigmatic director Jim Jarmusch in an elegantly and exquisitely manner, in the form of a strange and out-of-the-ordinary love story.

A peculiar love story.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

We meet Adam, a severely depressed hermit vampire living in one of Detroit’s many uninhabited neighborhoods. His only contact with the outside is through Ian, who provides him musical instruments and other weird requests, and with Dr. Watson, who provides him with the human blood that he needs to survive. His wife Eve lives in Tangier, in Morocco. More social than Adam, she has contact with another old vampire, Christopher Marlowe. Eve identifies that Adam is in another phase of depression, and she decides to visit him in Detroit. The lovers restart their love affair that is interrupted by the impulsive Ava, Eve’s younger sister. This family meeting will come to throw the delicate balance of the lives of the two lovers out of control.

Not your every night vampires.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tom Hiddleston – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

Jarmusch explores the endless possibilities of the long lifespan enjoyed by vampires. But the most interesting is that he shows them as beings with the capacity for personal development. Adam, Eve and Christopher are cultured, creative, and curious, each in their way, about everything the world has to offer. Although they disdain the lightness and narrowness of thought of the human being, Adam calling them zombies, they have reached the point of respecting all forms of life, even human. On the contrary, Ava is the stereotype of the vampire in most media representations. Impetuous and violent, she serves as a counterposition to exalt the level of personal growth of the others.


Tilda Swinton - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tilda Swinton – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

Some have called the film as presumptuous and pretentious. The story revolves around numerous mentions of events and key characters in the history of man and that knowing about all of them requires an acceptable level of general culture. A viewer who does not have this basic level of knowledge may feel lost with all the references. This is a fundamental element to understand the level of evolution of vampires. But on the other hand, if the viewer knows about these mentions, the film becomes a lavish experience, a compendium of humanity’s achievements in science and the arts. The film is precisely a criticism of how now humankind seems to downplay knowledge and wisdom and the essential appreciation of the great minds that have emerged through time. All of this usually motivated by a short vision, conformism, and economic interests.

Jarmusch on top of his game.

Here is one of the best productions that Jarmusch has brought us, who top-form. The film is highly atmospheric. Jarmusch shows us his mastery of how to tell a story and create artistically beautiful frame compositions. From the beginning, we see a sequence that follows a 45 LP record spinning. Jarmusch then introduces characters, Adam and Eve, in an equally circular shot, indicating the artistic ambition and direction of the film. This same creative approach will remain throughout its duration. Overall, Only Lovers Left Alive has many top-notch technical aspects worthy of mention.

Great performances. Gorgeous art design.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

The performances are great for the entire cast. In particular, the trio of Swinton, Hiddleston, and Hurt carefully and smoothly interpret the trio of vampire snobs. The elegant photography of Yorick Le Saux offers us endless memorable scenes and knows how to give a mysterious and eerie air to a semi-desert Detroit, while also takes advantage of the most obscure and picturesque locations of Tangier. The production design is variegated. Both Adam and Eve’s houses are full of things, reflecting a large number of interests of the two, result of the accumulated knowledge gained through the centuries that they have lived.

Exquisite musical experience

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

Music plays a prominent role, as is recurrent in Jarmusch’s films. Jarmusch himself with his band SQURL are the ones who created most of the score of the film, with the help of various artists such as Zola Jesus and Yasmine Hamdam. The musical pieces are exquisite. From the gothic style songs, much akin to genre-fathers Bauhaus, that Adam composes to the exotic musical pieces chosen to set the scenes in Tangier are all of the highest quality. Add some classic Rock n Roll songs from Charlie Feathers and Wanda Jackson and the result is a memorable soundtrack.

Shakespeare a ghost writer?

Tilda Swinton and John Hurt - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tilda Swinton and John Hurt – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

The cultural references are innumerable. We could do another writing just talking about that. But it is worth mentioning about Christopher Marlowe, the role played by John Hurt. Marlowe was a 16th century English writer who died under strange circumstances in a bar fight. Some argue that Marlowe was a secret agent, even a spy, who fell from the grace of the English crown. Speculators say that his death was a fabrication to escape this life-threatening situation. Moreover, conspiracists say that Shakespeare was simply a ghostwriter and who wrote those extraordinary plays was, in fact, Marlowe. This fact is reviewed in the plot of Only Lovers Left Alive.

A cinematic achievement.

Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska  - ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

The movie is not perfect. There are a couple of events that contradict the experience, wisdom, and resourcefulness displayed by the characters, merely to create situations for the plot to advance (leaving alone Ava and Ian, the circumstances at the end in Tangiers). But this does not detract in the least one of the best works by Jim Jarmusch. Only Lovers Left Alive is a delight, extravagant and deep, with a high level of artistic commitment. Essential viewing for any fan of the cinema of the highest quality.

Delirium Score

Films like this remind us that cinema art. Outstanding performances, art design, cinematography, direction, music. Some may find it pretentious. Most a masterpiece.

Written by Guillermo Garnica Bouchot

Music Lover, Comic Reader, Film Buff, Cat Person.



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