Forget about the disastrous Twilight series and their so-called modern representation of vampires, Jim Jarmusch has just renewed (saved) the archetype of the immortal lovers. The film soberly opens with a red gothic font on a black background. She, in Morrocan Tanger, is lying in a bedroom covered with books from every language. He is playing the guitar in his American Detroit Mansion. As a vinyl starts swirling at his side of the world, she dances at her’s, anticlockwise, visually setting the film in motion, creating an uncanny and hypnotizing atmosphere that will be the essence of the two-hour long picture.
From the first sequence on, we understand that there is a incommensurable and ineffable link between the two creatures. These are old lovers, they are the Ying and the Yang, they are the very first couple… or are they? Their centuries-long story transcends the idea of origins, it does not matter how they got where they are, it does not matter what troubles they went through before, what matters is now and their sleepless night listening to music and philosophising about what is left of mankind.
The strength of Jarmusch’s film lies in this precise point: whilst the vampires are dandies living in houses scattered with artefacts randomly dated, they are the only figures not only surviving through the years, but living in the moment. Jarmusch’s dark creatures hold no heroes in mind, they are the witnesses of the decadence of the surrounding world, on which they comment from the Detroit velvet sofa, holding hands and having their nightly fix of pure blood.
Dealing with vampire stories has the heavy charge to bring the film an whole-full lot of meaning and symbolism. Blood in vampire stories used to directly refer to the spreading of AIDS in the mid-nineteen eighties. Only lovers left alive expanded the idea. Clearly opiated related, the blood the two vampires illegally get is the only one which is safe to drink, as any other seem to lead to, at best, feeling deeply sick. Whilst the nature of blood poisoning never has to be stated, an analogy between blood and water is slowly crafted, making its point ecologically more current than ever.
Last but not least, the soundtrack of the film, which won a Palme at the last 2013 Cannes Festival, is a surprising choice for a vampire film and cleverly adds up to the overall tone of the story. Most titles are played by Jarmusch’s band itself, SQÜRL and if you look through the lyrics, you will discover another type of love story: one where you fall down for love, and loose your mind rather than walk through the centuries side-by-side.
Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch, is released in UK cinema by Soda Pictures, certificate 15.