Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, Byzantium is an erotic horror fantasy that takes vampire mythology to a new level of modern terror. Upon the wind swept shores of a desolate coastal town stands the Byzantium guesthouse. After years of being abandoned, its doors are about to be opened again by the predatory and seductive Clara (Arterton), who plans on turning the hotel into a brothel, and her young and introverted daughter Eleanor (Ronan). But these mysterious women have a dark secret that goes back 200 years and is about to reach its ungodly and deathly climax.
No fangs, gore or garlic - but well photographed, very long and very average
- Byzantium review by RP
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You rated this film: 3
Byzantium is the name of the semi-deserted guesthouse apparently in Hastings (of all places) where two vampires Saoirse Ronan (daughter) and Gemma Arterton (mother) take up residence. Daughter is haunted by her past and longs to tell her tale. Err - that's it.
It's a long (just under 2 hours) film, beautifully photographed, atmospheric and well acted. But if you're looking for fangs, gore, garlic, crosses, coffins, superhuman feats or flying bats then give this one a miss - not only is it long, but it's short on thrills. It's a wordy, slow moving drama.
I found it pretty to look at but very average - 3/5 stars.
From the mind of the director of Interview with the Vampire come Byzantium a completely different take on the vampire genre but one still filled with the same gothic imagery used in the 1994 cult classic. The difference between the two is that Byzantium thanks to is slow, sombre story is unfortunately quite boring.
Byzantium tells the story of Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), a mother and daughter who are forced to live eternity moving from place to place trying to avoid the mysterious organisation chasing them. When they settle in a quiet coastal town Eleanor begins to make roots, something that causes tension between the two leading to a deadly climax.
Unlike most vampire stories, Byzantium isn’t concerned with the usual themes like the loss of innocence, Byzantium is a film about company most of all, the safety and security found through having a companion. For Clara she finds the company of men but feels most comfortable when she has someone to control. Eleanor on the other hand is completely different, seeking someone who understands the pain in living a solitary life, someone who understands her
The film despite its limitations has created two thoroughly relatable characters and they are played perfectly by Arterton and Ronan. In fact Clara is a joy to watch on screen, she is a character born for cinema, a sexpot with anger issues who lights up this dark tale. Unfortunately she plays second fiddle to Ronan’s Eleanor whose tale of desperation takes up most of the films story.
Filled with plenty of darkness and violence, including one piece of ridiculous popcorn violence near the end, Byzantium is definitely a tale of the macabre nature of vampires but in telling a very human tale it has lost the supernatural element that makes films like these so interesting leaving an overlong, depressing yet well acted mess instead