From time to time you come across a tune that you play on repeat, perhaps listening to it at night until you fall asleep. These are typically songs or albums that resonate for being catchy or for saying something on where you are as an individual. A lot of Jim Jarmusch’s films possess this mechanism for resonance and replayability. It probably has something to do with Jarmusch’s editing patterns, often ending scenes in a dissolve to black before returning to his characters in another scene - it’s like the gap in between tracks on an album. With Only Lovers Left Alive, Jarmusch opens with the scratchy sound of a needle dropping and a record spinning. Jarmusch switches back and forth between the image of that record and his two protagonists in what promises to be the cinematic equivalent of a moody rock album.
Eve (Tilda Swinton) is in Tangiers while her husband Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is in Detroit. If it weren’t for the smudge of blood on the side of Eve’s mouth, it takes a little while to realize that the two are vampires. Adam, a despondent musician, is on the brink. Having lived centuries, the vampire is finding the current generation of humans to be the most insufferable. Sensing her husband’s depression, Eve heads to Detroit. Reunited, the two lounge about the Detroit scene, catching the sights of the defeated city while discussing its long-term prospects as a city on verge of reconstruction. Like many of Jarmusch’s films, the characters and direction to the film are prone to discussion of philosophy and history. It works much like any other Jarmusch film - characters roam the night and discuss items of cultural and historical importance. But the wealth of history that these vampires are able to recall give the film an added dimension beyond simple name-dropping; Adam and Eve’s drives through vacant Detroit reservoirs impress upon the thought of where our culture is and where it will go.
The romanticism found between Adam and Eve feels especially poignant when contrasted with the other characters of the film. From Mia Wasikowska’s hilarious pixie vampire posing to John Hurt’s decrepit vampire state, it’s the romance between Adam and Eve that looks to survive it all. Jarmusch’s misanthropy may be found throughout Adam’s dismissal of human ignorance, but Only Lovers Left Alive could be interpreted as the director’s most optimistic of films. From his musings on the rise of Detroit to how everlasting Adam and Eve’s relationship feels, Jarmusch’s observations feel less like an externalization of his disappointment of society but rather a call to cherish those things that matter most to all of us.