“Only Lovers Left Alive” Teaches Us How to Live
What would you do with immortality? The question was asked by a few filmmakers during the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year. And now Director Jim Jarmusch is asking it again with “Only Lovers Left Alive,” a loose adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve.
In the film Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are the coolest vampire couple ever to grace the dark alleyways and blood banks of planet Earth. (Definitely cooler than that Twilight joke.) Adam is a tortured musician living in Detroit. Eve bums around Tangier with her bestie, Elizabethan playwright, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt). They wear hip sunglasses, follow the underground music scene, lounge about in vintage robes, and bemoan the “zombies” who just don’t get life the way they do.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. But before you chalk them up as another annoyingly-invented, hipster couple consider this: how would you act after centuries of being alive? Eve is 3,000 years old and, as Swinton describes, “pretty evolved.” Adam was “turned” sometime between the late-16th century, early-17th century. They have already fallen in love and settled into the familiarity of a centuries-long relationship before the film even begins. They don’t hunt for blood anymore, preferring to purchase from doctors. And they seem to have an endless supply of money. There is no where they need to be, nothing they need to do.
Such an endless amount of time can be more of a curse than a blessing. All of a sudden their slightly detached, intellectual hipster attitude makes sense. It’s not as bad as every day being Groundhog Day, but it’s pretty close. How do you find a purpose to your life when there’s nothing you need to do? Can life still be exciting? Is there anything that could make you wonder? Anything that could surprise you?
It’s how Adam and Eve answer these questions that makes this film so fascinating. Eve, the older and more advanced of the two, seems to have it pretty well figured out. She studies human interactions, the waxing moon, and growing fungus with particular interest. There seems to be no shortage of information for her to learn and natural wonders to get her attention. Life, no matter how immeasurable and never ending, still interests her to the point where she’s willing to sacrifice her own values just to continue experiencing it.
Adam struggles with his immortality more than Eve. He misses his old friends who have long passed away. He resists the present and seems to have no interest in the future. But he, like Eve, still discovers little blessings that renew his interest in life. While Eve’s surprises come from nature, Adam’s surprises come from the arts, primarily music.
The film reminds us that there is a sweetness to life deeper than our infatuations and immediate gratifications. It comes from an all-knowing connection we have with old friends and lovers, and the joy we find as we continue to grow and cultivate ourselves. Love is always comforting. Nature is always changing. Art is always inspiring.
And we can always find surprises down dark alleyways and discoveries in the nighttime sky. Well, just as long as our fear of monsters don’t keep us cooped up.
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