Tangier: The Hidden and The Intimate


Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) juxtaposes the wide, industrialised cityscape of Detroit with the narrow, winding roads of Tangier. This covered alleyway gives a sense of intimacy and privacy, which is at odds with ideas about the city as a lonely, alienating place. In Tangier the material reality of the city intimately surrounds the lovers as they go on their way. At the same time, the highly structured nature of the city dictates their available routes. They cannot go in direct lines, but instead are forced to take detours, which lead them to both pleasant and unpleasant unexpected encounters. This old Moroccan town is full of hidden corners and doors behind which treasures hide. The staircases and passageways force characters Adam and Eve to explore the city by foot, even when they are exhausted. The city is demanding, but also rewarding, for example by allowing Adam to witness a performance by singer Yasmine Hamdan, whom he finds ‘too good to become famous.’
The walls of the town are crumbling, yet in the graffiti and the hand-made electrical wiring there are also markers of modern living, however haphazardly they are implemented. The name of the café in which Eve’s friend Marlowe stays references the mystical stories of the 1001 Arabian nights, but it is a modern coffee house.  The layers of history show in Tangier, in a way that is denied by modern industrial cities with their constant renewal and re-construction. In all these ways Tangier is opposed to Detroit, with its open spaces and wide motorways, which make it almost necessary to navigate the city by car. It is a lonely place, but also one full of freedom and possibility. In these ways, the cities both reflect the different histories of North Africa and the US, and the different internal lives of Eve and Adam respectively. Eve is warm and full of love, whereas Adam is desolate and solitary. The movement of the action in the film from Detroit to Tangier mirrors the movement of the balance of their relationship. Adam’s depression initially defines the relationship, but staying in Tangier lifts his misanthropic attitude, as the lovers decide to continue ‘living’. The cities are thus both reflections of the characters, and characters in their own right. They define what Adam and Eve can do, but also how their inner selves operate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s