Monday, September 10, 2012

TIFF12: My Thoughts on Byzantium

In just five years, I've fast became a fan of Saoirse Ronan and will probably see anything she's in.  The same can pretty much be said about Gemma Arterton, who I absolutely loved in The Disappearance of Alice Creed, which played at TIFF a few years ago.  As such, when I found out about this film that has the two of them playing vampires, I was on board.

Byzantium was directed by Neil Jordan, the Irish director best known for directing films, such as The Crying Game, Breakfast on Pluto, and most appropriately, Interview with the Vampire.  It would be that latter film, which arguably popularized the romanticized version of the vampire, that should have given me an idea about what this film is about.

Clara (Arterton) and Eleanor (Ronan) are a mother and daughter vampire duo.  They go into hiding in a former hotel called "Byzantium" after they kill a man that was trailing them.  Clara, who works as a prostitute, decides to convert Byzantium into a brothel in order to make ends meet.

Now, of course, that story is more of a macguffin.  The real story of the film involves Eleanor and her torment with being immortal.  A surprisingly large chunk of the film is told in flashback and tells the story about how Clara was forced to be a prostitute by the cruel Captain Riven (Johnny Lee Miller) and was forced to send Eleanor to an orphanage, since she wasn't allowed to keep her baby.  This section of the film does have a very interesting visual of an island with waterfalls of blood.  The exact nature of the island is a minor spoiler, so I will just leave it at that.  In addition to her lengthy backstory, Eleanor befriends and falls in love with a somewhat odd boy named Frank (Caleb Landry Jones).  It is her interactions with Frank that makes her want a new life so to speak.

Like I said before, this is very much a romanticized vampire story.  The vampires in this film don't even have fangs.  Instead, an elongated nail emerges from their thumbs, which allow them to stab their victims.  There is even a brotherhood of vampires at one point, who dub themselves the "Pointy Fingers of Justice."  There was some gory vampire violence in the film, but not as much as I was expecting.

Overall, while I have great admiration about the actors, the overall story of Byzantium was sort of dull and melodramatic. The film does pick up a bit in the third act, however overall it was not an especially memorable film for me.

 6 | WATCHABLE