‘Only Lovers Left Alive’: The Unbearable Coolness of Being

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Jim Jarmusch’s characters are cool, so I guess it was a matter of time until he made a movie explicitly about coolness. Only Lovers Left Alive stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve, two vampires trying to keep their lives meaningul and interesting in the 21st Century, after many, many years of being alive. Despite being married, Adam lives a reclusive life making music in Detroit, while Eve lives across the ocean, in Tangiers, where she goes for nocturnal walks to chat and buy some blood from Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt).

Adam and Eve are, on the face of it, as cool as it gets. They are the ultimate idea of a hipster. Two people who have lived long enough to have known everybody who deserved to be known and have tried every trend that deserved to be tried before it was cool. They engage in long conversations about art and science, and are huge name-droppers. Adam seems to fit closest to what our idea of a cool person/hipster is like. Even though he makes music, he doesn’t want to release it. He wants to neither get rich, nor famous through it. When he is captivated watching a singer perform late in the movie, he hopes she doesn’t get famous, explaining that “she is too good for that”.

However, Adam seems to also be deeply depressed. He has grown incredibly weary and disgusted with the way Zombies (which is what he calls humans) have shaped the world in the last few years. Even their blood is too polluted for vampires to drink. He has also been having suicidal thoughts. That’s why Eve takes an overnight flight from Tangiers to Detroit. Now, she is a more lively person. Carefree, and able to cope with immortal life by finding little pleasures such as visiting the house where Jack White grew up. She is here to try and cheer Adam up.

Now, being cool means being in control. Also being self-aware. The two protagonists of Only Lovers Left Alive are very cool, which means that nothing very dramatic or exciting happens for most of the movie. It’s sometime towards the halfway mark that the appearance of Eve’s sister Ava (played in an incredibly lively and entertaining performance by Mia Wasikowska) brings some complications to the story. Still, our characters see problems more as a “drag” than as anything meaningful and dramatic. They have been there before, and they will be there again. After all, what can surprise you when you’ve lived so long?

That is precisely the question the movie is asking. Being cool means removing yourself from life, watching everything from a distance and knowing exactly what to think at any given time. But even outsiders like Adam and Eve must live in this world, and what’s more, find a way to make it worth existing. They search for something they can count on when everything is flat and meaningless. Vampires, as most monsters, always work better as allegories, and Jarmusch has crafted a fantastic one. A movie that is not about being depressed and lonely, but the more relatable situation of having the presence of sadness and loneliness in our lives. Only Lovers Left Alive doesn’t fill life with meaning, nor does it surrender to its emptiness, it just keeps on going, and thus, becomes one of the most interesting, entertaining, and intelligent films of the year.

Grade: 8 out of 10

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