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“There will be today, there will be tomorrow, there will be always, and there was yesterday, and there was the day before…”
– Lev Tolstoy, War and Peace (1869)

A cool, gloomy evening calls for a cool, gloomy retrospective of an equally atmospheric film. In Only Lovers Left Alive, the true stars are the cities, Detroit and Tangier, which act as silent observers and reflective surfaces of our svelte and sophisticated vampire couple (Swinton and Hiddleston). On the one hand, Detroit: a once thriving metropolis, now a derelict icon of urban decay in post-recession America. On the other, Tangier: an exotic-tinged refuge of the inconspicuous, lit dimly by streetlamps and candlelight in a mysterious vibrancy. Each is a second shadow to Adam and Eve, respectively, trailing along threads of isolation and vampiric weltzschmerz, wherever they go.

It is a tale of eternity, living amongst the shadows in the world of the living. Unlike many other films of a similar genre, Jarmusch’s vampires are very much imbued with modern sensibilities, though their aeons of immortality augment their personalities just so. Swinton is the ideal lamia, sage-like, coy, and unexpectedly tender. Alternately, Hiddleston cuts a neoteric Byronic figure, with Poe-tinged gothic aloofness. The relationship between the two is at once foreign and familiar; the distance between the two characters bears no anguish to their intimacy once reunited, and amongst society, appear coolly remote and serene. It is an unhurried and ruminative love affair that seems unaffected by the external world, and, indeed, time itself. Allusions to history, literature, and art pepper the backdrop and script of the film, as a reminder of the ages through which the couple has lived, bound together by the archly presence of a one Christopher Marlowe. As the loom of mortality draws near, it brings into sharp focus the nature of the solitary life, one lived through dichotomies: civilisation/de-civilisation, harmony/chaos, and distance/proximity – vampiric elements or no. Even conceived as being human, the lovers are undeniably a reflection of modern bohemians, those who dance on the fringes of society with self-possessed panache, much like the characters in all of Jarmusch’s catalogue.

Those seeking narrative urgency and dramatic revelations best turn elsewhere. A directed plot is nearly non-existent, instead choosing to meander through philosophical and poetic cogitation, lolling about on the outskirts of mainstream. Instead, Only Lovers Left Alive is a moody and melancholic tone piece reflecting on the peril of the human soul through the ages, as seen through the eyes of those who have truly seen it all – the snobbery is entirely warranted.

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