Byzantium (2012) Directed by Neil Jordan. With Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton and Sam Riley.
Interview with the Vampire director Neil Jordan returns to familiar ground with Byzantium, a through-the-ages vampire story following the misfortunes of two outcast female blood-suckers.
The time since ‘Interview’ has seen a boom in vampire tales. In-between True Blood and Twilight, you don’t have to look far to find a recent fix of nightmare fantasy. If there is any fault to find with Byzantium, it’s that aside from some slight variations, it treads very heavily trodden turf in its exploration of themes and ideas that most fans of vampire culture will be all too familiar with.
Familiarity aside, there is much to admire here. In the dual lead roles, Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton make for a fine screen coupling as a mother-daughter duo on the run. Neil Jordan frames a gritty, eye-catching fluorescent visual theme as we’re introduced to Arterton’s ‘Clara’ in her nightly job as a lap dancer. After a short initial chase sequence, the film then settles into a slower, brooding tone that takes its time getting familiar with the daughter character, played with maturity by the intriguing Saoirse Ronan.
While this isn’t what you could call a bold new take on vampire lore, it does function very well between the tried and tested parameters. The frenetic final third bows its knee to Hollywood convention, and feels slightly tacked-on, considering the steady build that had preceded it.
Byzantium could easily be passed off as Interview with the Vampire’s inferior second cousin, and while it’s true that it doesn’t achieve the same narrative scope, it’s still a solid entry into a recently crowded genre of film that is elevated by some fine performances and a hardened tone that well befits the trashy lifestyles of its protagonists. 3.5/5