Only Lovers Left Alive is Jim Jarmusch’s latest film endeavor, and it is like watching acute depression in motion; and it is very very slow … slow as molasses in winter. It is a melancholic wallow in angst on the one hand; and anxiety on the other; and there’s blood, too, and it is thick and rich! Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play Adam and Eve, two somber vampires who are in the vein of a mysterious space that would cause Edgar Allan Poe to shiver. Adam is a reclusive rock musician holed up in a gothic-like mansion on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan. That was his music you just heard. He is a pack-ratenveloped in obsolete technology such as a tube television and an 8-track tape player; he collects vintage guitars, one is a Gretsch Chet Atkins, supplied to him by Ian (Anton Yelchin), an unsuspecting lad in the music business. Eve lives in Tangiers, Morocco where she gets her precious supply of blood from another comrade in the Vampire fold, Christopher Marlowe—yes the Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s nemesis (played by a wizened John Hurt). Jeffrey Wright plays Dr. Watson, from whom Adam buys a fresh supply of the deep red liquid jewel. Adam and Eve are reunited when Eve returns to the U.S. What unfolds thereafter is a set of the moody blues plucked from a piano in a smoky café packed back up the way, and the only entry to it is to amble down a one-lane hard-scrabble road!
The filmmaker could not have chosen a place more complementary to the style and mood of the film than the city of Detroit. The visual of the city is filmed in the twilight hours, and through that lens, Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography produces a city that languishes in its mistreatment but awaits as does the phoenix to rise from the ashes. On a drive in the wee hours of the morning, Adam asks Eve if she would like to see the Motown museum but cautions her that there is nothing left of it really. He then takes her to the once glorious movie theater developed on the site of Henry Ford’s first automobile workshop in 1925, and it is heartbreaking to see its French-renaissance style décor having faded away and being used for a parking lot. It is a hollow grave of memory! But Eve, in all of her vampire wisdom, looks into the future and declares, and I paraphrase: “While the south burns, Detroit will rise again!”
Only Lovers Left Alive is also a story swathed in old world romance. What Jarmusch manages to reveal through Adam and Eve, these vampires in love is a weariness over what humans have become. They’ve lived for centuries; they’ve seen it all but their knowledge of the world has left them fragile. They really are the only lovers left alive. Adam laments the present that, in spite of all of its advances in technology, has produced humans whom Adam calls the Zombies.
Jarmusch’s film is a stylistic visual pleasure that, ironically, will leave you craving for more as do Adam and Eve lust after pure uncontaminated blood.
Only Lovers Left Alive plays through June 19 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
Also playing through June 19 is Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 directed by Lars van Trier and starring Charlotte Gainsburg, Uma Thurman, and Christian Slater and Shia La Beouf.