SUPPOSE Adam and Eve didn't disobey God. Instead, they have
eternal life. That is the plot of the film Only Lovers Left
Alive (Cert. 15).
Their immortality is, to some extent at least, of the kind where
(unlike Tithonus in Tennyson's tragic poem of that title) age
doesn't weary them, nor the years condemn. Tom Hiddleston (looking
his actual thirty-something age) plays a centuries-old Adam to the
maturer Tilda Swinton's Eve, who could very well pass for 43 in the
dusk with a light behind her. This is handy, because both are
vampires who go out only after dark.
One hundred and forty-five years or so into their married life
(the couple wedded on 23 June 1868), we discover them living apart:
Adam in a well-nigh abandoned Detroit, Eve in shabby-chic Tangiers.
It remains, however, a strong and loving relationship, which
includes visiting rights. The depressive Adam makes sly references
to his association with luminaries across the ages - Paganini, Mark
Twain, Schubert (one of whose quartets Adam apparently composed),
Nikola Tesla, William Burroughs, et al.
Nowadays, he is inclined to despair, in the manner of English
Romantic poets, over humanity's decadence, while remaining stuck in
a 1960s musical rut, and enthusing over vinyl discs and Fender
guitars. He lives reclusively, interrupted only by trusted human
beings ("zombies" he calls them) and Skype conversations with his
Eve, in contrast, is more open to life's possibilities. It may
help that she is situated in an ancient cosmopolitan city, one that
has accommodated so many fads and fashions of the human race.
Nothing surprises it, whereas relatively modern Detroit is depicted
as emblematic of an exhausted industrial empire. So, Adam and Eve
represent twin aspects of the divine perspective, looking at our
failures to become who we truly are yet rejoicing in any potential
that's on show.
Those who seek out a Jim Jarmusch film will expect a quirky take
on whatever he sets his mind to. Dead Man, Ghost Dog and - a
particular favourite of mine - Night on Earth all attempt an
outsider's exploration of contemporary landscapes. He directs
Only Lovers Left Alive as a metaphor of that long road
back to Eden. His Adam and Eve are fragile. Like fellow human
beings, they are needy people. In their case, life depends on
plentiful supplies of blood devoid of impurities. Their many years
of existence enable them to take the long view, avoiding some of
the pitfalls that the younger generation still needs to steer clear
of. Their problem, mutters Adam, is fear of their own imaginations.
Eve (definitely the twinkle in Adam's eye) encourages us to taste a
world full of awe and wonder, one worth getting to know much better
Some will find Jarmusch too languorous a narrator, but if you
like shaggy god stories, this is probably one for you.
On release from today.