It would be limiting to pigeonhole the film by Jim Jarmuschan atypical and original American independent director, perennially poised between experimentation, dreamlike and poetic visions, like a horror film about vampires.
A refined and lunar landscape
Only lovers survive it is an immersion in a perennial and immutable night that illustrates the meaning of life from the point of view of two almost immortal creatures, through a rustling narration, which places muffled steps on ancient carpets, silk cushions and time-worn brocades.
Jarmusch’s Vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are discreet, educated, love beauty, art, kindness and gratitude. They are not such as vampires, but by precise choice and awareness.
They have understood and selected the important things, those for which it is worth surviving, those that make existence more beautiful, worthy and above all bearable.
In this wisdom, which is a precise personal conquest, also due to accumulated experience and knowledge of the world, they differ from men (but also from some vampires) who let themselves be carried away disorderly by life, waste, waste, consume. Paradoxically, not without a delicate humour, the director shows us ecological vampires, much more aware than us of the importance of respect and knowledge for Nature.
Everyone, both humans and vampires, is immersed in a time that passes, consumes and devours, if for some not bodies, certainly things, places and the mind.
The tools available to every kind of creature, but which not everyone can or want to use, are respect for the surrounding world, the pursuit of one’s passions and above all love. A love that is mutual care, deep knowledge of the other, respect, sharing, desire. In short, love.
It only allows short lives and those that unfold over the centuries, to survive the unexpected, the discomforts, the bad weather.
A vampire, like a man, cannot escape both daily tedium and an occasional incursion of unwelcome relatives.
Jarmusch gives us a film punctuated by a slight irony, another talisman necessary for survival, even cinematographic. In fact Only Lovers Survive is a film whose charm is not affected by the passage of time.
At the same time, however, both humans and non-humans are subjected to their own nature, in a lack of perfection that contradicts their own rules due to inevitable necessity, and for which one can only feel indulgence. For a predator, eating to survive is necessary. But he can do it with respect, with kindness, with parsimony.
There is much to learn for those who greedily plunder the planet without caring about tomorrow or the suffering of others.
Adam has chosen to live in a lunar neighborhood of Detroit, where the industrial past and the present coexist, in abandoned and remote places of unexpected beauty. He spends his time composing music and collecting beautiful vintage guitars. Eve, refined, elegant, lives in Tangier, surrounded by books written in every language. Her closest friend and purveyor of blood bags is the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), a contemporary of Shakespeare and his rival, for whom he still bears flashes of violent resentment.
Eve, sensing that something is wrong with her lover’s mood, decides to reunite with him in Detroit, taking several night flights. She just has time to arrive, because Adam had decided to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart.
Just when tranquility seems restored, the two receive the unexpected and unwelcome, especially for Adam, a visit from Eve’s sister, Ava, an unpredictable vampire who had already caused trouble for the couple in the past.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a hedonistic film made up not only of images and cultural and aesthetic references, but above all of sounds and music: Adam listens to singles produced by Berry Gordy, Eve listens to the old hits produced by Motown’s historic rival, Stax. The two lovers play vinyls on and off an old record player, while the delicate arpeggios of a Moroccan lute fill the air. The music and its instruments, the materials they are made of, linen, wood, horsehair, are erotic objects that refer to a decadent, corruptible sensuality, therefore particularly desirable for the two immortals.
The mysterious guitarist, author of the soundtrack, hidden behind the acronym “SQÜRL”, a contraction of “Squirrel”, is Jarmusch himself, together with Jozef Van Wissem, Dutch lutenist and composer.
Only lovers, that is, those who love, survive time, even in its dilated vampiric expansion. They not only love each other, but they love music, poetry, beauty in all its forms and look with unchanged amazement at the mysteries of nature. With no money, no food, no home left, Eve uses the remaining money to give Adam an ancient musical instrument. And in the unwise kindness of that gift, made only to bring joy to the companion, there is all the meaning of love.