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Would you Adam and Eve it?

21 February 2014

Yes, this is about how they do as vampires, says Stephen Brown



Immortal: Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston inOnly Lovers Left Alive

Immortal: Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston inOnly Lovers Left Alive

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 wife.

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 throughout eternity.

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.

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