Film Review: “Only Lovers Left Alive”

The romantic and gothic world of vampires and music fanatics are combined in this Jim Jarmusch film. What is not to love about a combination between music, love, and blood? Just think about the rituals that are cast with that combination. 

The director, Jim Jarmusch, helped create the soundtrack for this movie with his band SQÜRL and Jozef van Wissem. He also recruited Tilda Swinton to play Eve, and he recruited Tom Hiddleston to play Adam. Jarmusch creates films that focus on people and the relationships they incur in the world, and “Only Lovers Left Alive” does not stray from his film focus. 

Synopsis (If you are not into spoilers, then maybe don’t continue reading)

In “Only Lovers Left Alive” two extremely intelligent vampires, Adam and Eve, fall deeper and deeper in love as the film progresses. We get to watch two beautiful beings come to the realization all they need in their worlds is each other. 

Adam lives in Detroit, and Eve lives in Tangier. Both are connected to their respective city’s natural life, culture, and especially musical culture. Adam is depressed. He pays a “zombie” (human) to make a wooden bullet and plays with a loaded gun.

Somehow Adam’s depression isn’t the main tension in the film. Jarmusch is able to propel off Adam’s oddly short suicidal character arc and latch Adam and Eve together again. Through a ridiculously complicated FaceTime, Eve decides to visit Adam in Detroit (which is gorgeous in this film). 

The two lovers are together again. Nothing can go wrong, right? Well, Eve’s sister, Eva, eventually shows up on the doorstep and begins to destroy Adam’s image in Detroit. I personally love this part because we get to see the music scene in more detail, which of course is abstract and dark. 

With Adam’s image ruined, he returns with Eve to Tangier where the two can start again and tap into the roots of music, culture, and nature together. That’s it. That is the film. 

While that was a brief rundown, there is a lot more within the scenes, shots and sounds of the film I want to dig deeper into.

The Cinematography

First, the empty abandoned streets of Detroit (I don’t understand why these vampires are enamored with Jack White) are incredibly gorgeous. The film shots are filled with flickering lamp posts surrounded by vegetation that is left to run free and dark, decrepit mansions which are abandoned and forgotten. I do not understand how I fell in love with a city I have never seen before. I would love to roam the streets Jarmusch creates. They leave so many adventures untold. 

Adam’s lair in Detroit is also a thing of beauty. The haphazard decorations and walls filled with amps, guitars, lutes, violins, and anything a musician would ever need occupy every inch of space. He might have a cluttered home, but every bit of it is loved.

Tangier’s beauty is different. The slow undulations of the streets let the characters roam about with a bit more luxury and light compared to the dark corners of Detroit. I feel more at home in Adam’s Detroit, but that is probably because the film spent more time there. 

The Sounds of the Film

Another reason I fell for this film is the way Jarmusch blends music and film. He brings in his own band and a close friend to this movie to hand select the perfect musical accompaniment I have heard in a while. 

SQÜRL’s rough sounding guitars and bass help create the atmosphere needed to appreciate the places and things Adam and Eve experience. Also, Jozef van Wissem is able to create songs which allow you to love the gaps of silence. 

Final Thoughts

I could write another thousand words about this film, but it won’t be able to let anyone experience it the way they should. If you decide to watch this movie, then appreciate it in its entirety. I am not sure there is a more perfect vampire film that exists than “Only Lovers Left Alive”. 

Keep eatin’ 

-DJ chef