Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive finds originality in its approach to the now-strained genre, the vampire film that for so long has initially utilised to spook the vulnerable audiences, and later on to romanticise their existence, capturing the hearts of the frail and desperate hearts; complexity could easily be lost from such a genre, especially when under the hands of a more simple filmmaker, hoping to exploit the rise of their trend rather than to be passionately driven and to create something ground-breaking. Only Lovers Left Alive is certainly not a ground-breaking film in a traditional sense, it lacks a gimmick that many of its more applauded and beloved peers contain, with Jarmusch instead focusing on the complexity to be added onto such myths and wrap it around in a tale that is contemplative rather than physically and emotionally urgent.
Much like Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows, it follows the lives of vampires currently surviving in modern society, highlighting the struggles that these vampires endure to ensure their anonymity and prevent extreme famishing, how their lives have slowly become more restrictive and cautious, now living in a world of the Internet and constant surveillance; Jarmusch delivering to his audiences something fresh, something worthy of our attention and thought, the idea of such creatures to exist in this world, particularly in those who dwell among cities filled with life at night, a first world paradise that indirectly isolated vampires to much more primitive continents, or at the confines of their homes.
Jarmusch finds the familiar attributes that would be present in the genre, allowing such refinement and exposition to be revealed patiently and with depth, allowing the central subjects to interact and progress their own stories without a consciousness to the audience peering into their lonely lives. The most fascinating aspect of these vampire’s lives was their relationship with blood, their adapted methods to attain their fundamental fuel, the specificity that our protagonists have with blood, type O negative being their primary choice, the hesitation to feed on living humans due to the potential risk of contamination, with the conditions of the environment and the beings themselves being much worse than they were then, could lead these vampires to their slow disintegration.
Only Lovers Left Alive finally displays Vampires as an extension of humanity’s complexity, simply because the nature of their existence have led them to feed on a much more primitive component, it does not necessarily mean they would lack the personalities that previously defined them when they were living, they seem to continue on with their lives, interacting with the world in a compensatory manner, still absorbing the world’s offerings in culture, art, and emotions, expanding their minds at a rate and longevity far more than the capabilities of our species; leaving me slightly envious of their position, to somehow “live” further beyond our expected time frame, to foresee the progression of our people and world from a far more insightful perspective, understanding the world and its fractures much more than we do.
Indeed the film leaves you in thought throughout, brisking along in a pace that leaves very little for the audience, especially towards those who are in search to escape from such a premise, to peer into a fresh perspective and be motivated by a plot mechanic that instils physical urgency and palpable emotions, which the film strays away from for the bulk of its running time. For a large sum of the film, I was content with this approach, allowing me to soak into the little details of its world and characters, allowing space in between moments for absorption and contemplation, but the film’s rest does take its time in finding its groove once again, benefitting from a little sense of danger for the characters, especially if it dove in deeper into the angst-ridden mind of Tom Hiddleston’s Adam, and how his potential actions could leave a devastating effect on Tilda Swinton’s Eve; but nevertheless the performances brought by the cast was wonderful, allowing most of its moments to be pleasing to sit through, especially in the short-lived arrival of Mia Wasikowska’s Ava, part of the youthful generation of vampires, acting primarily on impulse and primal desires, reckless and uncaring of the collateral damage of her actions.
Only Lovers Left Alive is another success for Jarmusch, who recently disappointed me with his 1995 film Dead Man, reviving the heartbeat of the vampire genre with a thoughtful piece that should pave a new path to the tired genre, let us just hope that its successors maintain a level of integrity and originality that Jarmusch and his cast has brought here.