Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    ‘Only Lovers Left’ a new look at Vampires

    V

    ampire stories have been beaten to death by pop culture over the last few years. A rash of books, TV shows, and movies have tried to put a new spin on one of humankind’s oldest myths.

    For many the trope seems tired out, but when a director as visionary and unique as Jim Jarmusch decides to take it on, it’s enough to make you pay attention, and not without good reason.

    “Only Lovers Left Alive,” the 11th film by the prolific and celebrated director, is unlike any vampire story before it, largely ignoring the trend of dramatic mysticism so popular in the genre, in favor of a nuanced and humanizing outlook.

    After thousands of years of walking the earth among the fleeting, self-absorbed lives of countless generations of humans, disdainfully referred to as “zombies,” Jarmusch’s vampires are tired, cynical, and very much detached from the mortal world. They are entirely disinterested in involving themselves in the tangle of humanity.

    Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are the protagonists of the story, two vampires who, though married and madly in love, have spent several years on respective sides of the globe, Adam in Detroit, and Eve in Tangiers.

    Facing a bout of nihilistic depression and contemplating suicide (a difficult task for an immortal being), Adam, who spends his time composing rock n’ roll dirges and fiddling with experimental electronics, finds himself in need of comfort and assurance.

    He’s reclusive, only compromising his solitude to allow for brief visits by Ian (Anton Yelchin), a friendly hesher who is dedicated enough to fill Adam’s requests for things like rare guitars and wooden bullets, and to take quick trips to the hospital, where a crooked doctor is willing to trade him blood for cash.

    Eve, though perfectly comfortable in her Tangiers apartment, packs her suitcases with books and blood, and takes the earliest possible night flight to the crumbling, urban wilderness of Detroit once she catches wind of Adam’s despondent state.

    Reunited, the reclusive Adam and the enigmatic Eve spend their days sleeping and their nights playing chess or driving through the city’s abandoned neighborhoods.

    Their peace is disturbed when Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) washes in from L.A. to wreak havoc, ultimately destroying Adam’s bubble of musical isolation.

    With his position in Detroit no longer safe, thanks to Ava’s uncontrollable appetite, Adam reluctantly agrees to return to Tangiers with Eve, leaving behind his beloved collection of instruments and oddball electronics.

    Eve assures him that the journey will be worth it, she’ll buy him new instruments, and they a have a mutual friend in Tangiers, the scholarly Marlow (John Hurt) who she assures Adam can get them “the really good stuff” — pure blood, untainted by chemicals or poisons, thanks to a connection with a friendly French doctor.

    But all is not as it should be, and the two lovers find they cannot reach Marlow, leaving the pair to wander the city in a fatigued daze.

    The genius of “Only Lovers Left” is Jarmusch’s vision of the modern vamp, a creature that sports teased up hair and an iPhone, a bloodsucker who would much rather purchase filtered blood through greedy doctors than get their hands dirty draining some poor sap dry. Their hunger seems more like an addiction than a
    basic need.

    They spend their long nights watching YouTube videos or discussing the tragic rises and falls of civilization they have witnessed with cynical detachment.

    Swinton and Hiddleston fill these roles perfectly, regal and ageless as they lounge about in antiquated bathrobes and ray bans, or dance to Motown 45s in scrubs amid the detritus of centuries of pack ratting.

    As with any Jarmusch film, “Only Lovers Left” is a visual knockout, each frame standing alone as if the director were taking a series of photographs rather than making a movie. It has the feel of a documentary, giving the viewer a sense of intrusion into the strange world of these eternal creatures.

    Though filmed digitally, a big step for Jarmusch whose passion for celluloid film has guided so much of his artistic vision, “Only Lovers Left” has all the texture and warmth of film. The striking backdrops of fallen Detroit and the rich romanticism of Tangiers lend themselves beautifully to the golden palate of light and color.

    “Only Lovers Left” is ethereal and grungy, a tale of punk rock supernaturalism riddled with humor and moments of poignant truth. It’s another incredible film from Jarmusch that transfuses new life into the well worn vampire genre.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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