Original Take on Vampirism
I would say my two favourite young actors at the moment are the extremely talented Elle Fanning (Ginger & Rosa) and Saoirse Ronan (The Host), with both young women giving us some incredible performances, in their short but busy careers. Miss Ronan has starred in an interesting mixture of genres, but now tackles the role of a 200 year old Vampire in Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, alongside the sexy Gemma Arterton. Neil Jordan has very successfully directed another Vampire movie in 1994 with his take on Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, to critical acclaim, but this has received a more mixed, but generally positive reaction by all. Perhaps it is the slow pace, or the love story that have put some off this stylish, romantically inclined movie, but for whatever reason, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Mother, Clara (Arterton) and daughter, Eleanor (Ronan) are Vampires who have been on the run from an order of male Vampires known as the Brotherhood. This has been going on for two centuries now with the Brotherhood represented by Darvill (Sam Riley). After almost being captured by Darvell, they make a run for it and head to a sleepy little English seaside town, where they hope to lay low and keep for as long as possible. Darvell was in actual fact, involved in turning our duo into Vampires in the first place. Clara meets a weak minded Noel (Daniel Mays) who runs a hotel called Byzantium, but it isn’t making any money so she persuades him to allow her to run it as a brothel.
Eleanor meets a young man, Frank who doesn’t keep well, and they become friends. Frank is played well by Caleb Landry Jones (Antiviral) and his pale features come in handy once again. Moira Buffini’s invented Vampires don’t possess the traditional pointed fangs, instead they have thick, sharp thumbnails that grow in length when it’s time to open up a vein. There are flashbacks showing our couple before and after turning, and we see a still human Darvell and Ruthven (Jonny Lee Miller) as misogynistic naval officers who have great effect over the pair. Eleanor is struggling keeping their secret as she hates that they have to drink blood to survive. Eventually our pair are found out and now must survive or die as they are turned against, as is the way with Vampires.
Even though this is quite slowly paced, I found the entire film interesting and being a Vampire fan this struck the right note for me and was over with, all too soon in my opinion. Jordan has some nice touches of style here and there, and certainly knows how to present Vampires to the world thanks to his experience on the subject. The performances were also good with both leads doing some memorable scenes, particularly when playing off each other in the more emotional takes. While this might not be in the same class as Interview, it is still a worthy, and somewhat original study of Vampires living through the ages, trying to avoid capture by fellow Vampires, with all that it entails for bloodthirsty immortal beings. If Vampires are your thing, then this is a must see movie, but is still worth seeing if only for the talented Saoirse Ronan and the sultry Gemma Arterton.