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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Only Lovers Left Alive can be found here.
When centuries-old vampire Eve (Tilda Swinton) learns that her vampire husband, reclusive underground musician Adam (Tom Hiddleston), has become depressed and suicidal over the current state of human society, she travels from Tangier, Morocco, to be with him in Detroit, Michigan. Things get complicated when Eve's younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) arrives for a visit and doesn't enjoy Adam & Eve's antiquated lifestyle.
Only Lovers Left Alive was written and directed by American independent film-maker Jim Jarmusch.
Silver bullets are a rather new addition to the vampire myth and the film is not least about nostalgia. The old myths knew staking, beheading, and holy water to be the methods to kill a vampire. Wilhelm Murnau invented, for his film Nosferatu (1922), the additional method of killing a vampire by exposing it to sunlight. (In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the vampire was merely "weakened" by daylight.) Nosferatu is the beginning of the vampire as far as films go, so this method was adopted by Jarmusch. Apart from that, he refrains from picking up newer additions to the myth and rather invented the wooden bullet as a reference to the old method of staking a vampire.
They aren't wolves. Eve calls them Canis latrans a.k.a. coyotes. Coyotes are found both in rural and urban areas in Michigan and are quite common but extremely good at remaining unnoticed by humans, even while living in close proximity. Their presence in subdivisions and urban or suburban areas, while surprising to many folks, is a result of increasing populations (both coyote and human) and encroachment of human environments into the coyotes' natural habitat.
Adam is depicted as a centuries-old influential musician, anonymously composing, recording, and publishing music that is played by other musicians and collecting (and possibly selling) valuable musical instruments. His royalty checks were undoubtedly sufficient to sustain him, and who knows how many other investments he had on the side. He certainly had enough money to pay Ian (Anton Yelchin) for the instruments and Dr Watson (Jeffrey Wright) for the "really good" blood. Remember also that he lived in an old house in Detroit's abandoned district and was surrounded by items from previous centuries, so he wasn't a heavy spender and probably required very little upkeep.
Although it's never answered specifically in the movie, the assumption is that they are offering drugs, e.g. hashish, opium, or heroin, to the pale, thin people wandering the streets very late at night. Another possibility is they were pimping.
Eve's fingers are depicted as being so hypersensitive to touch that she can "feel" dates and histories of objects just by touching them. Viewers suggest that Eve, and probably Adam, either want to keep pure what they touch or that they don't enjoy the unrush of feelings that accompany touching various items. Another possibility is that, since vampires can read the emotions of others, Eve politely wore gloves until Adam told her that he didn't mind her touching (i.e., "reading") him. When Ava came to visit, however, Adam refused to let her embrace him without her gloves, suggesting that he didn't want her "reading" him.
Poisonous Amanita muscaria (aka fly agaric) mushrooms "bloom" when the temperature is cool and the conditions are moist, typically in the autumn, but they can spring up at other times of the year when weather permits. Their significance in the film is a metaphor for vampires, who may go "underground" for long periods of time but who can spring up again when the conditions are right.
After kicking out Ava and disposing of Ian's blood-drained corpse in a pool of acid in an abandoned factory, Adam and Eve hastily leave Detroit and fly to Tangier, where Eve promises that they can get good blood from Kit Marlowe (John Hurt). When they arrive, however, they find that Kit is dying from drinking dirty blood, so they are on their own. Eve decides to spend their last dollar on an oud and joins Adam in a cafe where he is listening to a haunting Lebanese singer. In the final scene, after drinking the last drops of their "good stuff", they watch and eventually succumb to drinking the blood of a young couple.
Several possibilities have been offered, e.g., drugs like heroin or other modern medications, food chemicals, or environmental contaminants. Movies like Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) have suggested that vampires cannot drink the blood of a person whose heart has stopped or, as in Blood for Dracula (1974), vampires can only drink the blood of virgins. With the movie's heavy emphasis on water resources, however, other viewers suggest that the Earth's water supplies are becoming so contaminated and, as a consequence, contaminating human blood to the point where vampires can no longer drink it.
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