The amazing thing about vampire is that they can be whatever you want them to be. Creepy, sexy, cool, corny, beautiful, grotesque. A filmmaker like Mike Flanagan can imagine vampires as pale, winged creatures lurking beneath the surface of Middle Eastern deserts, while Kathryn Bigelow can portray them as a group of psychotic, grungy American nomads.
In Only lovers will stay alive, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch imagines vampires living secretly as sexy, rock-and-roll-obsessed night owls. With its laid-back nonchalance and fuzzy aesthetic, the underrated 2014 film is a whimsical, offbeat gothic romance that offers one of the most specific and well-realized takes on “vampire life” ever seen on screen. . No matter how many vampire movies you’ve watched, you won’t recognize these bloodsuckers.
Only lovers will stay alive follows Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), age-old vampire lovers who may or may not have a relationship with This Adam and Eve. When the movie starts, they are separated. Adam lives in Detroit, where he regularly contemplates suicide and continues to produce mystery rock music using only vintage studio gear. Eve lives in Tangier with one of the couple’s oldest friends, the vampire playwright Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt).
After an agonizing phone call with Adam, Eve decides to find her lover. From there, the couple spends most of the film having midnight sex and listening to music while walking the abandoned night streets of Detroit. Only lovers will stay alive is, in other words, all about vibrations. Even when the arrival of Eve’s reckless younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), shatters Adam and Eve’s fragile peace, the film handles the issues that follow with a relaxed acceptance that mirrors the ageless nonchalance of its characters. .
The film carefully avoids engaging too deeply in melodrama or violence. Ava’s selfish murder of one of Adam’s closest human friends is approached with a sense of minor disappointment rather than apocalyptic fury. For some it will mean Only lovers will stay alive lacks the visceral sense of danger that they typically turn to vampire stories. Others, however, will be amazed at the commitment Only lovers will stay alive is to his subversive and romantic take on the vampire genre.
Behind the camera, Jarmusch uses a visual style that constantly emphasizes the dreamlike and surreal nature of the film. In particular, crossfades and overlays are used to great effect throughout, including in a sequence that crosses paths with Adam writing new music in Detroit and Eve dancing alone around the world in Tangier. Another scene, which lets footage of Adam and Eve dancing to “Trapped by a Thing Called Love” flow and mingle freely, is one of the most romantic you’ll ever see.
Together, Jarmusch and cinematographer Yorick Le Saux fill the film with deep shadows that make the moments of Adam and Eve lying opposite each other in bed look like gothic paintings. These choices correspond perfectly to the story of a couple as obsessed with the relics of the past as with the timelessness of their idyll. The film itself and its unique take on vampires are therefore both decidedly modern and timeless.
Only lovers will stay alive is streaming on HBO Max until March 31.