SPOILER WARNING: Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
Between Adam and Eve differing views of the world are presented in Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013). But though these perspectives are different in a variety of ways, namely Adam’s pessimism and Eve’s lack thereof, both respective views are strikingly similar. Adam sees the end of the world as he mopes around his isolated Detroit existence, only pausing the create music. Eve however, sees the current state of the world as simply just another phase that humanity is inevitably going through. In comparison to Adam, Eve’s perspective is a relatively positive one, though neither of them are really hopeful for the “zombies” that surround them. But the film does not pause for extensive meditations of the current state of affairs, and instead both characters’ views are presented as they state them to each other in response to the natural flow of their lives. This method of discourse allows the characters to maintain their realism in the sense of how jaded and desensitized they are to the happenings of the world. Only Lovers Left Alive examines and uncertain period of history through the eyes of those that have seen it all, and though it offers a variety of viewpoints, its concluding thesis is unmistakably bleak.
From their respective homes, Adam and Eve watch the world pass. Eve spends her days reading endless stacks of books, while Adam seeks to create music. But though he is seemingly more involved with the outside world, Adam is much more exhausted of it than Eve. The latter does not necessarily see hope for the zombies that surround them, but she recognizes the cycles that the world takes. She speaks of the “fun” of the inquisitions and states that Detroit will “bloom” again as there is water there. For Eve, the world will always keep spinning, regardless of what those that inhabit it are doing. Adam does not share this sentiment. He interprets the world not as its own entity, but instead by way of the creatures that inhabit it. Because of this, he is depressed by its current state. Adam has seen almost everything. He has seen the most brilliant scientists to ever live be persecuted for their discoveries, the course and toll that fame and brilliance take, and because of this his viewpoint is a bleak one. But Eve has seen all of the same things, and yet her view of the world is much less condemning.
In many ways, Eve’s view is one that sees the larger picture of the world than Adam’s does. Adam and Eve are irrevocably intertwined, as the frequent mention of Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” makes clear, but they are still fundamentally different people. This feature keeps the argument of the film from being self-serving and even boring, as constant resistance to both ways of seeing are being presented counter to each other. And though Adam and Eve do not ever simply argue with each other, their very ways of handling their lives does the work for them. Eve lives a romantic existence, walking the streets of Tangier at night to obtain blood from a writer perhaps more ancient than she is. Adam, in contrast, lives a tech-punk analogue existence punctuated by his musical recordings and his frequent trips to the local hospital to obtain blood. All the while he watches the state of the world change and writes funeral dirges. Eve chastises him for his moody demeanor, stating that his “…self obsession is a waste of living.” Adam does not heed her warnings, and instead forges ahead with his pessimism. Labeled “Dr. Faust” he gathers blood while having a wooden bullet constructed for a possible suicide. Eve halts this latter action, and as the two once again begin to share the same space their actions become more and more similar. But neither of them are immune to the flow of the world or the weight that their species brings with it.
Labeled “Dr. Strangelove” and “Dr. Caligari” by the doctor that provides him with blood, Adam manages to follow the paths of both of these figures in his own way. Like the former, he bears witness to what he believes is the end of the world, or at least the end of his world. In many ways, Adam brings about his own destruction. Though he is not comfortable with the world of the zombies, he still allows himself to become more of a part of it than he can manage. He keeps one, named Ian, nearby for whatever errand or task he may need, and in the end this contributes to the fall of this stage of his life. Like Dr. Caligari, there is something evil, something primal, lurking in Adam’s “cabinet.” In this case, it is those that come with the species that Adam is a part of; namely, Adam’s sister-in-law Ava. Though he does not approve of her and her actions, Ava is still a product of Adam’s life and choices, and in the end this brings about his own downfall. By not ensuring the safety of Ian, Adam allows his life to be shattered as he underestimates how primal Ava can be. Though he has seen everything that the zombies have to offer to the point that he is only dulled by them, Adam is still capable of underestimating and being surprised by his own kind. In this way, his vision is narrow, too narrow for him to maintain his lifestyle of dangerous closeness to the other side.
Ultimately, Adam and Eve are brought to their ends. Though they live through the film, and the film indicates that they will keep on living, they fall victim to the cyclical nature of the world. Ava’s “drinking” of Ian is derided by both of them as being something that is uncivilized, something that is simply not done anymore. As they dispose of his body, Eve makes reference to the fact that they are no longer living in a time when they could simply hide the body in the river among all of the disease victims. But in the end, Adam and Eve are forced to once again commit the sins of old in order to continue living. Brought to the edge of death by a lack of blood, they choose to feed on and “turn” a pair of young lovers they spy on the streets of Tangier. Despite all of their efforts to see the larger view of the world, to recognize the way that time flows, the pair cannot save themselves from falling back into the old patterns. Just like the zombies that they both resent on at least some level, Adam and Eve cannot stave off the habits of old. Though they have seen everything, an endless stream of actions and their consequences, this pair of vampires cannot stop themselves from falling back into their old habits. Only Lovers Left Alive leaves its audience here, with the statement that not even the oldest and wisest beings in the world can continue to improve, as the state of the world will force them to fall back onto their older, less civilized methods. None are immune from the current, regressive condition of the world states the film, even those who have seen it happen countless times.