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A tale of (im)mortality – Only Lovers Left Alive

Gentle but killing, knowing but not telling, alive but always dead – the lost souls wander between the old, the decaying and continuous in time. Only Lovers Left Alive is as the title suggests a love story, but a rather unconventional one. It does not rely on typical love stereotypes, such as falling in and out of love or the love-conquers-all moment. Set in Detroit and Tangier, Jarmusch’s latest film creates a romantic melancholia and finds nostalgia in the old and the decaying. The typical unhurried and lose Jarmusch plot is underlined by a continuous presence of style at the very substance of the film.

Writer and director Jim Jarmusch shows a moment of continuous vampire love – Adam (Tom Hiddleston) lives in contemporary Detroit and is a rather melancholic but sharp character, while his chosen lover Eve (Tilda Swinton) resides far away in Tangier. Due to the founding of the project, it took Jarmusch around seven years to complete the film. Perhaps it is fortunate event, as it survived the commercial vampire-hype in film of the recent years.

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film Only Lovers Left Alive had already premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. However, the initial release to the cinema audience was not until very recently. Only after Jarmusch’s film had toured several festivals last year, it had finally opened in European cinemas and still is to be released in the US. Only Lovers Left Alive had received attention at Cannes last year, but unfortunately has been slightly neglected as it was actually released. This extremely stylistic film, however, deserves to be viewed closely.

On the surface Jarmusch’s film is a vampire love story, but it is lightly more complex than that. Showing a world that is sliding of map, such as contemporary Detroit, the sense of mortality gains prominence. When combined with the eternal world and the love of the vampires of Adam and Eve, timelessness itself is called into question. Jarmusch does not ask directly, but the question of eternal love is suggested. Adam and Eve have outlived centuries and generations, but their love stood the test of time. The ruins of Detroit create the macabre contrast to this eternity, but Only Lover Left Alive never turns into a grim story.

The decay of Detroit and the ancientness of Tangier are depicted with a sense of melancholic longing and are aesthetically stunning. Not only for its visual beauty does Jim Jarmusch’s latest film deserve attention, but also for the fabulous acting, as John Hurt portrays the character of Christopher Marlowe with ease and an ancient touch. Although vampirism is perhaps not everybody’s taste, it is not all about that. Of course one can view the vampires in Only Lovers Left Alive as a metaphor for the human condition, but perhaps it is rather the ruins of the once magnificent Detroit that fill the void and answer to the question of the contemporary condition. In the beginning Adam himself considers suicide. It seems that everything dies in the very end, even vampires.

About Peter Schimke

Peter Schimke is a freelance writer currently based in Singapore. Before moving there, he has lived in Germany, England, New Zealand, Japan, Spain and the Netherlands. He is the author of the novel Beyond Blue and the creator of 1030 Productions. Peter has a huge interest in contemporary aesthetics and the art of skateboarding.

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