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 English film poster.png
English theatrical poster
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Produced by Jeremy Thomas
Reinhard Brundig
Written by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Tilda Swinton
Tom Hiddleston
Mia Wasikowska
Anton Yelchin
Jeffrey Wright
Slimane Dazi
John Hurt
Music by Jozef van Wissem, Yasmine Hamdan, SQÜRL
Cinematography Yorick Le Saux
Edited by Affonso Gonçalves
Distributed by Soda Pictures (United Kingdom)
Pandora Film Verleih (Germany)
Release date
  • 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 $7.6 million[4]

Only Lovers Left Alive is a 2013 internationally co-produced vampire film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, and starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi, and John Hurt. A co-production of the United Kingdom and Germany, the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.


Married for centuries and now living half a world apart, two vampires wake as the sun goes down. Adam sits holding a lute, in his cluttered Detroit Victorian, as Eve wakes up in her bedroom in Tangier, surrounded by books. Rather than feeding on humans, they are like addicts, dependent on local suppliers of the "good stuff"; fearing contamination from blood poisoned by the degradation of the environment. Adam visits a local blood bank in the dead of night, masquerading as "Dr. Faust", paying "Dr. Watson" for his coveted O negative, while Eve relies on their old friend Christopher Marlowe, who faked his death in 1593 and now lives under the protection of a local man.

After influencing the careers of countless famous musicians and scientists, Adam has become withdrawn and suicidal. His desire to connect through his music is at odds with the danger of recognition as well as his contempt for the corrupt and foolish humans he refers to as "zombies." He spends his days recording his compositions on outdated studio equipment and lamenting the state of the modern world whilst collecting vintage instruments. He pays Ian, a naive human "rock and roll kid," to procure vintage guitars and other assorted curiosities, including a custom-made, wooden bullet with a brass casing. Having acquired substantial 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. His reclusive nature adds to his mystique as a musician and composer, and he is horrified when some intrepid fans turn up on his doorstep. Ian promises to discreetly spread rumors about Adam living elsewhere to draw them away.

When Eve calls, she recognizes that he is despondent and decides to come to Detroit. Soon after she arrives, Adam goes out for more blood and she discovers a small revolver under the bed, finds the wooden bullet and senses that it is newly made. She confronts him when he returns, chiding him for wasting the time and opportunities he has to enjoy the world as well as their relationship. They spend their nights cruising the empty streets of Detroit, listening to music and playing chess. But their idyllic seclusion is shattered by the arrival of Eve's younger sister, Ava, from Los Angeles. Ava gorges herself on their stash of the "good stuff," and hungry for excitement, persuades them to go out to a local club with Ian, where they hear Adam's music when the band, White Hills, finishes their set. Ava offers Ian a hit off the flask she secretly filled with blood and brought to the club, and Adam snatches it from her hand with supernatural speed, then insists that they all depart. Before dawn, Ava kills Ian by drinking too much of his blood, and Adam kicks her out of the house.

Adam and Eve dispose of Ian's corpse in an acid pool in an abandoned factory. Ian's murder, and the appearance of another bunch of Adam's fans at the house, compel the couple to hastily return to Tangier with only what they can carry onto the plane. Desperately hungry for blood, they visit Marlowe, and learn that their long-time friend and mentor has been poisoned by a batch of contaminated blood. After they discuss how Marlowe secretly penned most of Shakespeare's plays, Marlowe dies. Eve takes all of Adam's ready cash and leaves him with the promise of a gift. He is captivated by the music from a nearby club, where a Lebanese singer (Yasmine Hamdan) is finishing a haunting song. Eve reappears with a beautiful oud, and as they sit together outdoors and contemplate their likely demise, they spot a pair of young lovers kissing. "What choice do we have?" Adam remarks before the two of them approach the couple with glowing eyes and their fangs exposed.



In August 2010, Jarmusch said that Tilda 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] Filming lasted 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 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]

The list of songs:

Cultural references[edit]

Jarmusch not only sees himself as a "film nerd",[12] he has also been called "a cultural sponge"[11] by companion van Wissem. Especially this film is full of cultural references and therefore it has been praised as "intensely curated"[19] and "an elegiac love song to aesthetic originary creation."[20] Though, most of the hints are in a musical context and others reference science, literature or even Jarmusch's own work. Furthermore, the not explicitly called vampires (Adam, Eve, and Christopher) are a sort of "secret agents of artistic and intellectual achievement throughout history"[19] - having created art for others like William Shakespeare or Franz Schubert (for whom Adam is said to have written the famous Adagio of the cello string quintet D956 - the same movement has previously been used by Jarmusch in his 2009 movie The Limits of Control[21]).

The title[edit]

The title pays tribute to Dave Wallis' science fiction novel of the same name from 1964, although the plots have no similarities. A film adaptation was planned in the mid-1960s for director Nicholas Ray (a picture of him can later be seen in the movie) starring The Rolling Stones.[22][23]


The names "Adam" and "Eve" can easily be deduced from the biblical creation myth, but in an interview for the Hollywood Reporter Jarmusch revealed he was originally referring Mark Twain's satirical work The Diaries of Adam and Eve.[12]

For her flight from Tangier to Detroit Eve uses the surname "Fibonacci", taken from the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci.[19] On their flights to Tangier they use the names Stephen Dedalus (from James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses) and Daisy Buchanan (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby).[19] Furthermore, on his two visits to Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) Adam's name tags show "Dr. Faust" (from the German legend of Faust, which Marlowe made into the play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus) and "Dr. Caligari" (an homage to the German silent movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).[19] At the first visit Watson calls him "Dr. Strangelove" like the titular character in Stanley Kubrick's movie of the same name.[24]

Music equipment and technology[edit]

Parallel to character Adam's fondness for vintage instruments and audio equipment, Jarmusch originally planned shooting the movie on analog film; budgetary considerations however forced the use of a digital Arri Alexa Plus with a Cooke S4 Lense.[25] Though, throughout the film only vinyl (mostly singles) are played and analogue recording technique is used.[19]

The film opens with a view of a ten-course renaissance lute (credited as built by Michael Schreiner of Toronto).

Adam receives four guitars in the beginning from Ian:[19]

Later a 1905 Gibson L2 is a dominant topic while other guitars, violins and cellos can be seen in Adams studio.[20] Among the recording equipment he uses is also a Premier drum set, Telefunken and Revox tape recorder as well as Marshall and Fender amps.

In contrast to Adams vintage habits, Eve and her sister are more adapted to modern technologies. To communicate via Skype with her lover, Eve uses her iPhone while Adam sets up a laptop connected to a wood-cabinet tube television.[19] Ava uses YouTube to watch the music video of "Soul Dracula" by the French band Hot Blood.


Among the books Eve reads and packs for her trip to Detroit are:[20][26]

and a picture of Lorenzo Ghiberti's "La Creazione di Adamo e di Eva" from his Porta del Paradiso

In reference to the theory that Christopher Marlowe may have faked his death and then continued to write under the assumed name of William Shakespeare, Marlow tells Eve that Adam would have been the perfect inspiration for his Hamlet.[20]


The mentioned scientists Adam adores are: Pythagoras, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein[27]

Wall of fame[11][19][20][24][28][29][edit]

While Adam often mentions that he has no "heroes", opposite from his bed there is a wall with pictures of personalities. Among others, these include the


The home of Adam is originally located at 82 Alfred Street, Detroit.[30] When the protagonists are cruising around the neighbourhood, Adam shows Eve the Michigan Theater, which is now a parking deck, and the actual place where Jack White grew up with his family.[28] (White previously played a Tesla expert in Coffee and Cigarettes.)


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.[31] It was shown at several film festivals, such as the September 2013 Toronto International Film Festival,[32] four screenings at the September/October 2013 Reykjavík International Film Festival,[33] and as an opening film for the 4th American Film Festival held in Wrocław, Poland.[34]

The film was officially released in the United Kingdom on 21 February 2014,[35] and opened in the United States on 11 April 2014.[36]


Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, gives the film an approval rating of 86% based on 167 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." [37] Metacritic gave the film a rating of 79/100 based on 41 reviews.[38]

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."[39] Calum Marsh of Slant Magazine gave it 3 out of 4 stars.[40] Jonathan Romney of Screen International commented that it is Jarmusch's most poetic film since Dead Man.[41]

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."[42] Jonathan Hatfull of SciFiNow wrote that it is Jarmusch's best film since Ghost Dog.[43]

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."[44] 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."[45]

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."[46] 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,[47] 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."[48]

Kurt Halfyard of Twitch Film commented: "Retro recording equipment hasn't looked this claustrophobically sexy since Berberian Sound Studio."[49] 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."[50]


Award Category Recipients and
Result Refs.
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or N/A Nominated [51][52]
Soundtrack Award N/A Won
Sitges Film Festival Special Jury Prize N/A Won [53]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Female Lead Tilda Swinton Nominated [54]
Best Screenplay Jim Jarmusch Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Horror Film N/A Nominated


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  2. ^ "ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE". Festival de Cannes 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
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  4. ^ "Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) - International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
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  49. ^ Halfyard, Kurt (5 September 2013). "TIFF 2013 Review: Only Lovers Left Alive Brings a Cosmopolitan Maturity to the Ailing Vampire Genre". Twitch Film. 
  50. ^ Joyner, Alfred (19 October 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive: Jim Jarmusch's Rock Star Take on Modern Vampires". International Business Times. 
  51. ^ Adamson, Thomas (25 May 2013). "'Only Lovers Left Alive' Hits Cannes With Tilda Swinton Starring". The Huffington Post. 
  52. ^ Rosser, Michael (8 October 2013). "Only Lovers Left Alive to open American Film Festival in Wroclaw". Screen International. 
  53. ^ Mayorga, Emilio; Hopewell, John (19 October 2013). "'Borgman' Tops Sitges". Variety. 
  54. ^ "2015 Nominee Onesheet" (PDF). Independent Spirit Awards. 16 December 2014. 

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