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Byzantium – 08/06/2013 @ The Watershed, Bristol

June 13, 2013

Could a British funded vampire film at a fraction of the budget be something that could equal, or be truly superior to its American counterparts? I think it does. Here we have something of a more grown up story set in an urban sprawl. We are introduced to 2 characters who are vampires. First we are introduced to Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) who is the narrator. She writes her thoughts poetically on paper and ‘throws them into the wind.’ She is young, lonely, introverted and a vampire. She has to feed on human blood but does not like the idea of killing people, so she justifies her actions by preying on old people who are ready to die. We are then introduced to Clara (Gemma Arterton), a sexy, street smart and older vampire who resorts to lap dancing and prostitution to survive.  An evil looking vampire enters the lap dancing nightclub looking for Clara, leading to a chase and culminating in a gory and impressively executed beheading with a wire saw. In light of this murder, Clara burns down the flat, takes Eleanor and they run to a seaside town to hide away from the vampires who are after them.

                And so begins a rather complex, but dramatic and fun film, where Eleanor explains the past and gradually reveals who the real nature of who they are, how it all came to be and the real nature of Eleanor and Clara’s relationship. Through their cover story, we are led to believe they are sisters.  Their relationship is the core of the film. Clara is the stronger character who has seen and done a lot of bad things and is a stronger and protective mother figure to Eleanor as a result. Eleanor is lonely and finds solace in Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), a person with similar character traits who is suffering from leukaemia. Romance blossoms between the two, adding more depth to Eleanor and causing more danger to the two main characters. This leads to a dramatic and impressive finale. The structure and the gradual revelation of the characters work really well. The story in the past is just as thrilling and interesting as to what is going on in the present day. The pace is a bit slow in the first half of the movie, but then picks up pace later. What you get is a rather diverse mixture of a classical gothic vampire story mixed with gritty urban drama. I felt it worked, it was fun and I did enjoy myself.

                The performances where good all round. The two leads needed strong performances, in which Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan deliver. Saoirse Ronan gives pretty much the same performance in the film ‘Hannah’. She seems to play introverted, innocent characters who cannot relate to humanity brilliantly. Her poetic narration really suited the tone of the film, giving it a haunting quality. There is one particular scene when she is revealing her past to a teacher which is chilling! Also Caleb Landry Jones has landed another role similar to his performance in ‘Antiviral’. Again he mumbles, grimaces and staggers his way through the film, but this time with more depth. He seems to suit playing someone who is ill and generally strange as he has the right look for it.

                I liked the idea that there is no sight of fangs in the entire movie. Instead, the vampires use their sharp thumb nails to puncture their victims’ skin and then proceed to suck their blood. I liked the British urban grit added into an age old legend; I feel it works for both young and old audiences alike. One of the main flaws was the fact that Sam Riley’s character Darvell was featured very little, even though his character was of paramount importance. More Sam Riley was needed. It has proved to be a good thing in past movies. Still, it is a solid piece of entertainment about survival and lost innocence in a masculine world.

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From → Film Review

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