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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

BYZANTIUM. FILM.


Do we really need more vampires? It has been done to death at this stage, Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Let the Right One in, there is nothing new left to say about these immortal blood suckers, no novel slant left that hasn't been used.


In Neil Jordan's latest film we are introduced to two female vampires, Clara and Eleanor, played by Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, who live an unstable life, travelling around from place to place, scraping a living. Clara introduces herself as Eleanor's sister, but we soon learn that she is in fact her mother.

They end up in a seaside resort where Clara quickly sets about establishing a brothel in an old guest house, the Byzantium of the title. Eleanor goes to school and meets a boy her age.

Things get complicated when Eleanor breaks the golden rule that the two vampires have lived by for their whole lives, and decides to tell her boyfriend the real story of who she is.

And that's really most of the plot. The film is very slow to get going, for the first hour it stutters and the story takes a long time to unfold. The pace picks up once we have learned most of the back-story of how the two women came to be vampires and the second half is an improvement, yet the overall impression is of a film that isn't sure what it is about.

What's more, Byzantium's efforts to refresh the genre are pretty weak. In this film the vampires grow a thumb nail in order to pierce the veins of their victims. And there is some kind of misogynistic brotherhood of vampires which sees female vampires as an aberration, something to be wiped out.

And that's it. There is little here that could be called a real addition to the genre. These vampires have to be invited in, and yet don't seem to have a problem with daylight. They have little fangs, but we don't find out if they can tolerate garlic. It is hard to see what the point is of a new film on the undead if you're just going to go over old ground.

There are things to admire about the film, though. For me the strongest part was the complex mother-daughter relationship between Clara and Eleanor, the two central vampire characters. Between the two women there is resentment, love, attachment, dependence, hatred, built up over the two centuries of their existence.

Yet I was left with the impression, at the end, of a film with a lot of holes, that meandered too much and that decided to focus on an area
that has been done, literally, to death.

2 comments:

  1. I felt annoyed and a little cheated (not to mention bored, oh, I just did...) by this movie. I just don't think you can do a straight vampire movie like this these days. The film-makers didn't do anything that Joss Whedon hadn't already accomplished with substantially more flair and wit in Buffy and Angel.
    The thumbnail thing was stupid and the way in which a new vampire had to be made seemed too contrived.
    There was a lot of wasted acting talent on the screen and a script that was crying out for a line or two of inventiveness or originality.
    Thumbs down.

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    Replies
    1. Agree that there was a lot of wasted talent in this film, not least Neil Jordan's. I probably didn't dislike it as much as you did, but it was fairly insipid overall.

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