In Jim Jarmusch’s new motion picture, Only Lovers Left Alive, are Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston two vampires, who share a love that has lasted thousands of years, but with the arrival of her uncontrollable sister, their relationship is disrupted. At the beginning of the film, the two eternal lovers are living apart from each other. Swinton’s Eve lives in Tangiers, where she walks the city at night to meet up with another vampire for bleed and Facetimes with Hiddleston’s Adam in Detroit, who is an underground musician and depressed – again. He has grown tired of mankind and how they destroy the world they live in, and does not see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. Eve decides she has to pull her vampire-husband out his downwards spiral and travels back to him. They continue their relationship as if they have never been apart, playing chess, enjoying some frozen blood on a stick and talking about music, the Latin names of plants and animals and very dead scientists. Unfortunately, Eve’s uncontrollable little sister Ava, deliciously portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, pays them a visit and disrupts the fun.
Only Lovers Left Alive is about vampires, but in a good way. Eve and Adam are the most human vampires I have ever soon on screen. They breathe, their hearts beat, they do not sparkle in the sun (thank the Lord) and they have real personalities. Eve is the most outgoing of the two, showing initiative, taking care of everything and encouraging Adam to pursue his purpose in his very, very long life: music. Swinton gives Eve an otherworldly beauty, with softly but confidently spoken words and a silent intelligence. She is the yang to Adam’s yin. Hiddleston portrays the melancholic, depressed, poetic and surprisingly funny vampire Adam fantastically. There is a certain emptiness in his dark view of the world when he is alone in Detroit, but when Eve comes back to him, Adam becomes whole again and that transformation is beautiful to watch.
What I really loved about Only Lovers Left Alive is the symbolism. In the entire film, the shape of a circle is integrated in the set or the costumes or the background. Wether it is the spinning vinyl on Adam’s turntable in the opening scene, of the logo of a cab company in Tangiers, or the cut-outs in Adam’s leather gloves or the full moon in Detroit’s night sky: there are circles everywhere. Very subtly, they represent the idea of infinite lovers. Eve and Adam are continuously circling around each other, never breaking their path – and the entire film represents this idea.
The costumes also play a great part in representing the idea of the eternal love of Eve and Adam. I love how Eve’s clothing is a representation of Adam’s and the other way around, only hers are white and his are black. This contrast, but also compatibility, is made even more clear by the fact that Eve has long, silvery blond hair and Adam’s manes are dark. They make a great vampire yin and yang, belonging together forever. It is just the two of them and when Eve’s sister Ava arrives at their idyllic love nest, she clearly is the third wheel. Eve’s and Adam’s clothing is uniform, while Ava is a strange mix of colors, patterns, funny stockings and vintage heels – which sets her very much apart from the two lovers. Mia Wasikowska is funny, yet adorable, as the wild Ava, being both childlike and a thousand years old.
Jarmusch has succeeded in creating a strangely funny, sexy and artistic film about two eternal lovers, who happen to be vampires. He has a very original take on the vampire-love-genre, with two main characters who are as compatible as yin and yang. Only Lovers Left Alive is a magnificent piece of cinema and symbolism.