Only Lovers Left Alive is rated 15 for strong language. The film is available on DVD.
Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) have been alive, and in love, for centuries. Spending their days immersed in literature, music and obscure scientific knowledge, they’re cultured and effortlessly cool. They also happen to be vampires.
At her home in Tangiers, Eve receives a steady supply of black-market blood via her friend and fellow vampire Kit (John Hurt). Adam, who records albums from the seclusion of his crumbling Detroit house, gets his blood fix from a local hospital. He’s a connoisseur of vintage guitars, acquiring a collection from naïve human fan Ian (Anton Yelchin), but this passion is starting to lose its appeal. In fact, Adam has begun to wonder – not for the first time – whether his endless life is really worth living.
Getting wind of his suicidal mood, Eve comes to visit him in Detroit. Before long, they’re joined by her younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikoswka), whose recklessness could put them all in peril.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? If you have seen any of Jim Jarmusch’s other work, how did Only Lovers Left Alive compare?
- How does the film compare with others in the ‘vampire’ genre? Is it really part of this genre, or a satire on it? Why do you think vampire films have become so popular in recent years?
- How important is music to the film, and what did you make of the soundtrack? In your view, was the film most successful in scenes with or without dialogue? What might be the significance of the scene in which Adam and Eve watch the Lebanese singer?
- How did you respond to Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton’s central performances? What made each of them particularly suited to their role? What aspects of their characters did they convey most successfully?
- How, and how effectively, did the film convey a sense of Adam and Eve’s long relationship? Which details in the script and performances help to show us the emotional ‘texture’ of this relationship? What do you think attracts Adam and Eve to each other?
- How would you describe the tone of the film? Did its sense of ironic distance prevent you from engaging emotionally, and why or why not? Ultimately, did you care about what happened to Adam and Eve?
- What did you make of Adam and Eve’s refined cultural tastes, and were there any references which particularly struck you? What might Jarmusch be saying about the importance of art, scientific discovery and culture to human existence?
- What view does Adam have of human history and cultural decline? Is Eve’s view the same, or does she see things differently? To what extent is Adam justified in claiming that the best of human cultural achievement is behind us, and why might this be the case?
- What makes some places, and some periods of history, more culturally fruitful than others? What kind of age are we living through now? Are great works of art or great discoveries likely to be appreciated in their own time, and why or why not?
- What beliefs does Adam hold about human nature and the value of ordinary human lives? Are any other perspectives put forward in the film?
- Is engagement with art, culture and intellectual ideas inherently a moral act – and are ‘cultured’ people any more likely to be morally good? Should the definition of ‘good’ art – or good culture, or science, or philosophy – also include a moral dimension?
- Why do you think Jarmusch chose Detroit and Tangier as the key locations for the film? Why might people in our culture view ‘the East’ as a more spiritual place than ‘the West’? Do you think it is possible for a whole city or culture to go into ‘spiritual decline’, and what might this look like?
- How might Adam’s disenchantment with his long life reflect the universal human search for meaning and purpose? What consolations are offered by Eve, and by the film as a whole? In your view, are these consolations meaningful enough to offer a foundation for living?