Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

“You know what would make a great movie? A movie about an immortal marriage between one vampire who is a philosopher invigorated by every essence of life and another vampire who is an emo hipster recluse musician who may be suicidal .”

That’s right, it’s still Halloween 2K16: Year of the Vampire() for me!
Only Loves Left Alive (2013)
 Dir. Jim Jarmusch
 Writ.Jim Jarmusch
 Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton
 Rated R
 123 mins
 Comedy, Drama, Supernatural
 IMDB 7.3

Only Lovers Left Alive is about, like I said above, a couple of vampires living in the 21st century with very different personalities and takes on life. We have Eve (Tilda Swinton) who is a vampire fascinated by humans and by life and by the way the world is shaping itself over time. She’s energized by the animals and the plants and the people and her obsession is literature, as shown by her Tangiers apartment being absolutely stacked with books. Entirely opposite Eve is Adam (Tom Hiddleston), who I like to call the ’emo hipster’ vampire. In his eyes, everything is awful, the ‘zombies’ – their word for humans – are to blame for everything being awful, life is shit, technology is stupid, and he hates everything apart from Eve and his zombie friend Ian (the late Anton Yelchin, RIP), who is actually an alright guy, in Adam’s view. The movie shows a look at their lives and that of two other vampires, Marlowe (John Hurt) and Eva (Mia Wasikowski).

A lot of people really don’t like this movie. I always find that both understandable but also insane, because I love this movie. The most common complaint, that I do understand, is that it’s got no real plot. And yeah, okay, I can see that. The entire ‘story’ (sorry for the spoiler) is “Adam is depressed, Eve comes to visit him, Eve’s sister comes to visit and ruins the life Adam’s built there by eating his friend, they have to go back to Eve’s home, their old friend is sick when they get there.”

Also, I do see a lot of people being annoyed by all the pretentious name-dropping throughout the entire film, but that’s kind of the point of the movie, in a way. Yes, it’s sooooo art-house pretentious, but I really like it. And I think that’s because what I like about this movie is the atmosphere. It isn’t a movie to watch for a gripping plot, you watch it for the atmosphere that Jarmusch had built and for the performances of the actors.

I really love how the film shows things in parallels of Adam and Eve’s lives in the beginning while they are apart. There’s this wonderful shot of the spinning reels of his recording morphed with Eve spinning around dancing in her flat that is the best example I can think of straight off, but it’s really only one of many. Their relationship is so interesting and the parallels shown are fascinating.

Adam and Eve are such an intriguing relationship, because they are a couple that has been together for centuries (at least 3 centuries, if my logic is correct) and they don’t live together in spite of the fact that they are, apparently, a monogamous couple who are only interested in each other. It would be interesting to have explored this idea of them having other lovers in spite of being devoted to each other, but honestly when it comes to vampires being over-sexed, this was a far more intriguing way to go. It’s always fun to think about immortals being in love because even if you entirely love someone without any doubts, the idea of spending 300 years with ONE PERSON would have to drive you to hate each other. I like the idea that they combat getting sick of each other’s shit by just not living together.

Maybe contemporary couples should try that. Buy houses across the street from one another and see if not cohabiting helps some marriages last better.

This movie is a lot more like a character examination than a plot-driven film, which makes it really unique and interesting. There is this look at Christopher Marlowe, who any hardcore literary nerd (or ex-English Majors like me) will know is the subject of a conspiracy theory about him being the ghostwriter for Shakespeare who died mysteriously just before Shakespeare’s first play was published. Dum dum duuuum! There are constant allusions to the Marlowian Theory and it’s so funny. It is so pretentious, true, but I love it anyways.

Speaking of pretentious, I love how Adam’s life is explored so deeply. He’s a very quirky guy. His fascination with science is full of name-dropping but to have this character who is so fascinated with the history of science and with scientific theory and supposedly hung with the authors of the birth of science fiction makes him all the more interesting as a character. It also explains why he’s so emo, let’s be honest. He is also a musician and always has been, it seems, and he has this incredible love of instruments and music and the movie explores music greatly. Much of this film is driven by the music, really. The soundtrack for this movie is absolutely extraordinary.

Eve is more interesting if you know the like ‘script-only trivia’ about the movie, like I do, and know that she’s around 2,000 years old and was a Druid priestess originally. Unlike Adam, who is supposed to be around 500 years old, she’s seen far more change in the world and yet she finds every bit of it still fascinating. She is not jaded like you would expect of such an old vampire (fun fact, the word vampire is never used in the movie, which is funny) and she is able to examine the life in everything around her. She also has this strange power, it seems, to be able to almost carbon-date things by touch. You see that, for her, touch is a big thing. All the vampires wear gloves, but she especially can be seen stroking the pages of books as if that lends her more information than just the script on the pages.

Speaking of vampire folklore and strange powers, I find it very interesting how they have special blood cups and feeding seems to make them high, like they’re addicts as much as vampires. It’s depicted as somewhat spiritual as well with the touching of the totems before drinking. There are a lot of things that seem to shape vampire lore into something spiritual. There is a part where Eve chastises Ava about how it’s bad luck to cross a threshold without being invited, which we see wen she first arrived at Adam’s home, pausing until he welcomed her inside even though he is her husband.

Eva is more of a plot device than anything, but I do enjoy her being there. She is Eve’s sister, though she seems to be more like a bratty child than an immortal vampire. She brings chaos with her to Adam’s home and, eventually, leads to him and Eve having to flee to Eve’s home in Tangiers (won’t spoil it, though I would LOVE to quote my favorite line from the movie at you here).

It’s just a fascinating movie that examines both the struggles of being a vampire in the 21st century (contaminated blood meaning they struggle to find clean blood from hospitals/doctors, traveling via plane only at night, ect) and the way that life has changed and continues to change through the eyes of immortal vampires. I love the atmosphere of this movie and the music is amazing. The acting is all really good, especially Tilda Swinton, who is arguably one of the best actors alive today. I love the characters and the relationship between Eve and Adam. What the movie lacks in a plot it makes up for in over-the-top pretension, but in a way that’s funny.

I could go on about this movie, and I didn’t even touch on how much I love Anton Yelchin’s Ian, but I’ve been rambling for nearly 1500 words now, so I think I’ll leave you with this interesting quote from the movie that was used to equate Eve and Adam with Quantum Entanglement:

Eve: Tell me now about entanglement. Einstein’s spooky action at a distance. Is it related to quantum theory?

Adam: Hm. No I mean, it’s not a Theory it’s proven.

Eve: How does it go again?

Adam: When you separate an entwined particle and you move both parts away from the other, even at opposite ends of the universe, if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected.

Eve: Spooky. Even at opposite ends of the universe?

Adam: Yeah.

My Rating: 8/10

About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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