Only Lovers Left Alive

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For the 1964 Dave Wallis novel, see Only Lovers Left Alive (novel).
Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Produced by Jeremy Thomas
Reinhard Brundig
Written by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Tom Hiddleston
Tilda Swinton
Mia Wasikowska
John Hurt
Jeffrey Wright
Music by Jozef van Wissem
Cinematography Yorick Le Saux
Edited by Affonso Gonçalves
Recorded Picture Company
Pandora Film
Distributed by Soda Pictures (UK)
Pandora Film Verleih (Germany)
Sony Pictures Classics
Release date(s)
  • 25 May 2013 (2013-05-25) (Cannes)
  • 25 December 2013 (2013-12-25) (Germany)
  • 21 February 2014 (2014-02-21) (United Kingdom)
Running time 123 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $7 million[3]
Box office $4,887,528[4]

Only Lovers Left Alive is a 2013 British-German vampire film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, and starring Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.


After living for centuries and influencing the careers of countless famous musicians and scientists, vampire Adam has become a reclusive musician. He spends his days recording albums on outdated studio equipment and lamenting the state of the modern world while he sulks in a dilapidated house in a deserted Detroit neighborhood. He has become convinced that humanity is doomed and continually refers to humans as "zombies".

Adam survives on blood-bank donations regularly supplied by Dr. Watson, who is happy to take Adam's money and not ask any questions. Having acquired substantial amounts of scientific knowledge over the years, the vampire has managed to build contraptions to power both his home and vintage sports car with technology originally pioneered by Nikola Tesla. Despite his reclusive nature, he is immensely wealthy and remains a popular musician. His many fans endlessly speculate about his whereabouts and real identity. Adam is horrified when a few of them turn up on his doorstep one night having figured out his address. He ignores them and they go away.

The vampire also pays Ian, a naive human "rock and roll kid", to bring him various vintage guitars and recording equipment. One night, Adam asks him to track down a wooden bullet for, as he puts it, "a project". Ian fulfills this request and Adam loads it into a small pistol. He contemplates suicide but a video phone call from his wife, Eve, convinces him not to go through with his plans.

Eve has spent the past several years living in Tangier where she purchases her blood supply from another vampire, Christopher Marlowe. Fearing for Adam's life, she flies to Detroit. The lovers unite and are content enjoying each other's company, eating blood popsicles, playing chess, dancing to music at home, and driving around the city at night. Then, a short time later, Eve's younger sister, Ava, arrives from Los Angeles and shatters the couple's idyllic seclusion. After a night out at a local club, Ava kills Ian by drinking all of his blood, and she is kicked out of the house by Adam.

Adam and Eve dispose of Ian's corpse in an abandoned factory. Ian's murder, in addition to a growing number of Adam's fans continually trekking out to the house, forces the couple to hastily return to Tangier. Experiencing blood-withdrawal, they discover that their long-time friend and mentor Marlowe has fallen ill due to a bad batch of blood. After revealing that he secretly penned most of Shakespeare's plays, he dies. Running low on finances and with no blood supply to curb their cravings, the couple spot a pair of young lovers kissing. "What choice do we have?" Adam remarks before the two of them approach the couple with their fangs out.



In August 2010, Jarmusch said that Swinton, Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska, and John Hurt had agreed to join the film, described by Jarmusch in May 2011 as a "crypto-vampire love story,"[6] but he did not have financing yet.[7] Financing the film was a difficult process for the director, and he explained at the film's world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2013 that, "it's getting more and more difficult for films that are a little unusual, or not predictable, or don't satisfy people's expectations of something."[8]

Jarmusch revealed in 2014 that, after seven years of frustration, Swinton said to him: "That's good news, it means that now is not the time. It will happen when it needs to happen."[9] Jarmusch eventually received a US$7 million budget from the German "NRW Filmstiftung".[8][10] Producer Jeremy Thomas later said that Jarmusch is "one of the great American independent film-makers – he's the last of the line. People are not coming through like that any more".[11]

In January 2012, Tom Hiddleston replaced Fassbender prior to the beginning of filming.[12] The film began shooting in June 2012 in numerous locations: in the Brush Park district of Detroit, Michigan, U.S.;[13] Tangier, Morocco;[14] and Hamburg[15] and Cologne, Germany.[16] The total duration of filming was seven weeks.[17]

The film is one of several Jarmusch productions, alongside films such as Night on Earth, in which the action mainly occurs at night-time. Swinton stated after the film's release: "Jim is pretty much nocturnal, so the nightscape is pretty much his palette. There's something about things glowing in the darkness that feels to me really Jim Jarmusch. He's a rock star."[11]


Jarmusch's band SQÜRL, primarily responsible for the film's score, opens the film with a version of Wanda Jackson’s 1961 song “Funnel of Love.” Other contributors to the soundtrack are Zola Jesus (a.k.a. Nika Roza Danilova) and Lebanese vocalist Yasmine Hamdan, while Dutch lute player Jozef van Wissem's compositions formed a core element of the film's overall aural aesthetic.[18]

During the week of the soundtrack album's release, in April 2014, Van Wissem explained:

I know the way [Jarmusch] makes his films is kind of like a musician. He has music in his head when he’s writing a script so it’s more informed by a tonal thing than it is by anything else ... I feel that I’m sort of political. Jim’s film is anti-contemporary-society. And the lute goes against all technology and against all computers and against all the shit you don’t need.[18]

Van Wissem also described the film as "a very personal film, maybe even autobiographical," further explaining that "Jim is a cultural sponge, he absorbs everything."[11]

A concert was held at the Santos Party House venue in New York City, U.S. in April 2014 to celebrate the release of Jarmusch's eleventh feature film. During the Santos event, Jesus performed with van Wissem on both a “pseudo-Gregorian” piece from the film's soundtrack and an unrecorded collaboration.[18]


Cast and director at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

In April 2013, the film was added to the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in the competition section.[19] It was shown at several film festivals, such as the September 2013 Toronto International Film Festival,[20] four screenings at the September/October 2013 Reykjavík International Film Festival,[21] and as an opening film for the 4th American Film Festival held in Wrocław, Poland.[22]

The film was officially released in the United Kingdom on February 21, 2014,[23] and opened in the United States on April 11, 2014.[24]


Critical response[edit]

Only Lovers Left Alive received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 87% based on 104 reviews. The critical consensus states that "Worth watching for Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton's performances alone, Only Lovers Left Alive finds writer-director Jim Jarmusch adding a typically offbeat entry to the vampire genre." [25] Metacritic gave the film a rating of 75/100, based on 31 reviews.[26]

Scott A. Gray of Exclaim! gave the film 8 out of 10, calling it "a visually poetic love story with a wry, jaded sense of humour about finding reasons to wake up every night."[27] Calum Marsh of Slant Magazine gave it 3 out of 4 stars.[28] Jonathan Romney of Screen International commented that it is Jarmusch's most poetic film since Dead Man.[29]

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as "the perennial downtown filmmaker's best work in many years, probably since 1995's Dead Man, with which it shares a sense of quiet, heady, perilous passage."[30] Jonathan Hatfull of SciFiNow wrote that it is Jarmusch's best film since Ghost Dog.[31]

Robbie Collin from The Daily Telegraph awarded the film 4 out of 5 stars and praised the performances of Swinton and Hiddleston: "In the time-honoured Jarmuschian fashion, the few things that happen in Only Lovers Left Alive happen very slowly, but the dialogue is always gloomily amusing, and Swinton and Hiddleston's delivery of the gags is as cold and crisp as footsteps in fresh snow."[32] Jessica Kiang of IndieWire gave the film a B+ grade, saying, "the real pleasure of the film is in its languid droll cool and its romantic portrayal of the central couple, who are now our number one role models in the inevitable event of us turning vampiric."[33]

Tim Grierson of Paste noted that "Hiddleston and Swinton play their characters not as blasé hipsters but, rather, deeply reflective, almost regretful old souls who seem to have decided that love is about the only thing you can count on."[34] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, pointing that Adam and Eve look more like "well-born incestuous siblings" in spite of being lovers,[35] while the Observer's Jonathan Romney concluded that the film is "a droll, classy piece of cinematic dandyism that makes the Twilight cycle redundant in one exquisitely languid stroke."[36]

Kurt Halfyard of Twitch Film commented: "Retro recording equipment hasn't looked this claustrophobically sexy since Berberian Sound Studio."[37] Alfred Joyner of International Business Times felt that "the melancholy that permeates Motown in the film could be seen as Jarmusch's take on the loss of America's greatness in the 21st century."[38]


Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
2013 Cannes Film Festival[39][40] Palme d'Or Nominated
Soundtrack Award Won
Sitges Film Festival[41] Special Jury Prize Won


  1. ^ "ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (15)". Soda Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE". Festival de Cannes 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Pulver, Andrew (25 May 2013). "Cannes 2013: Only Lovers Left Alive a seven year trek says Jim Jarmusch". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ "Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) - International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Filming of Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" Is Complete". Magic Media Company. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  6. ^ MacNab, Geoffrey (May 16, 2011). "Swinton, Fassbender and Wasikowska line up for Jarmusch's vampire story". ScreenDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  7. ^ Weingarten, Christopher R. (August 25, 2010). "Jim Jarmusch's Showtunes". Village Voice. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Andrew Pulver (25 May 2013). "Cannes 2013: Only Lovers Left Alive a seven-year trek says Jim Jarmusch". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  9. ^ David Ehrlich (20 February 2014). "Jim Jarmusch: 'Women are my leaders'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Begnoche, Michelle (July 16, 2012). "Jim Jarmusch Feature Only Lovers Left Alive Approved for Film Incentives". Michigan Film Office. 
  11. ^ a b c Jonathan Romney (22 February 2014). "Jim Jarmusch: how the film world's maverick stayed true to his roots". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Roxborough, Scott (January 30, 2012). "Tilda Swinton, John Hurt Join Jim Jarmusch's Vampire Film 'Only Lovers Left Alive'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  13. ^ "Tom Hiddleston takes time to greet fans in Detroit where he is filming ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’". July 15, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Tom Hiddleston on winning the Total Film Hotlist Awards: interview". Total Film. August 4, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  15. ^ Jacquemain, Karolin (July 18, 2012). "Tilda Swinton dreht seit Dienstag in Ottensen" [Tilda Swinton filming in Ottensen since Tuesday]. Hamburger Abendblatt (in German). 
  16. ^ Ferguson, Liz (August 1, 2012). "If there were Oscar awards for being nice to fans – Tom Hiddleston would surely win lots of them". Montreal Gazette. 
  17. ^ Bliss, Karen (September 15, 2013). "New Jim Jarmusch Film Explores the Emotional Lives of Vampires". Rolling Stone. 
  18. ^ a b c Steve Dollar (11 April 2014). "Jozef van Wissem wants to make the lute ‘sexy again,’ and Jim Jarmusch is helping him". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (April 26, 2013). "Cannes: Jim Jarmusch's ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ Among Additions". 
  20. ^ "Toronto film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian (London). 23 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  21. ^ "Only Lovers Left Alive screening schedule". Reykjavík Film Festival website. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  22. ^ "American Film Festival, Wrocław". 
  23. ^ Bustos, Kristina (November 2, 2013). "'Only Lovers Left Alive' trailer with Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston". Digital Spy. 
  24. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (January 16, 2014). "Hot Trailer: 'Only Lovers Left Alive'". 
  25. ^ "Only Lovers Left Alive". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  26. ^ "Only Lovers Left Alive Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  27. ^ Gray, Scott A. (September 4, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive – Directed by Jim Jarmusch". Exclaim!. 
  28. ^ Marsh, Calum (October 12, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive". Slant Magazine. 
  29. ^ Romney, Jonathan (May 25, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive". Screen International. 
  30. ^ McCarthy, Todd (May 25, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive: Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  31. ^ Hatfull, Jonathan (November 14, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive film review". SciFiNow. 
  32. ^ "Cannes 2013: Only Lovers Left Alive, review". Daily Telegraph (London). 24 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013. [dead link]
  33. ^ Kiang, Jessica (May 24, 2013). "Cannes Review: Droll, Louche & Languidly Playful 'Only Lovers Left Alive' Is Jarmusch At His Most Enjoyable & Accessible". IndieWire. 
  34. ^ Grierson, Tim (May 30, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive (2013 Cannes review)". Paste. 
  35. ^ Badshaw, Peter (May 24, 2013). "Cannes 2013: Only Lovers Left Alive – first look review". The Guardian. 
  36. ^ Jonathan Romney (23 February 2014). "Only Lovers Left Alive – review". The Observer. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  37. ^ Halfyard, Kurt (September 5, 2013). "TIFF 2013 Review: Only Lovers Left Alive Brings a Cosmopolitan Maturity to the Ailing Vampire Genre". Twitch Film. 
  38. ^ Joyner, Alfred (October 19, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive: Jim Jarmusch's Rock Star Take on Modern Vampires". International Business Times. 
  39. ^ Adamson, Thomas (May 25, 2013). "'Only Lovers Left Alive' Hits Cannes With Tilda Swinton Starring". The Huffington Post. 
  40. ^ Rosser, Michael (October 8, 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive to open American Film Festival in Wroclaw". Screen International. 
  41. ^ Mayorga, Emilio; Hopewell, John (October 19, 2013). "'Borgman' Tops Sitges". Variety. 

External links[edit]