There’s a tasty question posed in the title Only Lovers Left Alive. Are the film’s two protagonists the only two very long term lovers allowed to endure another day, until they’ve racked up centuries’ worth of togetherness? Or are “lovers” – those passionate, caring, committed loyal few under the archetype of Venus – the only ones whom the gods won’t separate, ever?
That’s what’s on the mind of Only Lovers director and writer Jim Jarmusch and what keeps us rooting for his splendid fictive creations Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), both vampires who love each other to death – Venus coupled with Pluto – and have been kicking around for hundreds of years while they endeavor to keep a low profile. One of their really close vampire friends is Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who’s alive and well in Tangier, where Eve has been residing. And the duo have both got their sources for “type O negative” – “the really good stuff from the French doctor,” is how Eve describes her supply – which sustains them so they don’t have to kill humans. It’s a progressive lifestyle.
However, Eve detects something’s up with Adam, an accomplished musician who once gave an adagio to Schubert. He’s got a spectacular vintage guitar collection and R&B 45s who lives in the Motor City. He sounds out of sorts, bordering on despondent. Eve hops a plane to be with him and this stunning middle-aged pair – the stately posture and garments on these two are mesmerizing – bloom anew, as they cruise the city in Adam’s Jaguar and suck on blood-on-a-stick popsicles.
Paired together, they become living examples of the Pluto life-in-death archetype that speaks to transformation through contact with the underworld. Adam and Eve enjoy a physical reconnect that’s as though it was only yesterday or, depending on their time frame, yesteryear.
Because there’s no story without conflict, it’s inevitable that a snake will crawl into the reunited couple’s unobtrusive Detroit mansion which resembles a messy Garden of Eden. The reptilian force – also a Plutonian archetype of change – happens to be Eve’s 20-something sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who behaves like a reckless, bratty adolescent. With no well developed Saturnine boundaries, she guzzles up the pair’s blood supply and gets a bit too cozy with Ian (Anton Yelchin), Adam’s loyal Zombie errand guy.
The movie’s initial and riveting image – an aerial view of a 45 rpm record spinning endlessly on a turntable – is as good a symbol as any of the eternal life cycle. Pluto, the change-or-die god, likes it better when we surrender, without whining, to new circumstances. Adam and Eve are good acolytes, even if their requisite new direction means backtracking into a pubescent recklessness. Jarmusch’s brilliance is we still root for them as we also go a bit easier on ourselves when we occasionally regressions. Sometimes life is too lip-smacking good to exercise moderation. And, just maybe, lovers are indeed the only ones who can pull it off.
Astrology Film Rating: ♀ ♇ (Venus, Pluto)