Tag: Only Lovers Left Alive

September 16, 2017 / / Main Slate Archive

Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive is like a master class in solving quirky filmmaking puzzles. How does a director make a movie in which the characters can survey and comment on the whole of history without having the film succumb to hackneyed tricks like time travel? Jarmusch’s solution: Make the protagonists undead. Make them vampires. But if one of the aims of the film is identification—i.e., the viewer being able to identify with the protagonists and thus take part in their often-plaintive (re)view of history—then how does the director create this effect when his protagonists are the embodiment of horror? By inverting the traditional relationship between the feared vampires and fearful people and having people be zombies to the vampires. These are some of the brilliant moves Jarmusch deploys in his hypnotizing contribution to the filmic version of literature’s sexiest, weirdest, and most blood-thirsty genre.


It’s not at all surprising that indie stalwart Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed a vampire movie. Indeed, it only seems surprising that he didn’t do it sooner: Jarmusch has long displayed a feel for misfits, weirdoes, and nightlife in his films, and with works like 1995’s essential revisionist western DEAD MAN, he’s also displayed a knack for making familiar genre tropes interesting again. And hey, the posters for Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE do look like they could have been beamed in from twenty years ago: Tom Hiddleston’s gothed-out appearance and guitar are evocative of Brandon Lee in THE CROW. But LOVERS feels very much of our own weary times, as its immortal characters search for meaning and hope in the 21st century.