Director: Neil Jordan (2012)
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley
Artists have revived supernatural beings for years. The majority of people reading this could probably name at least one example of a fictional vampire created during their life. Blood-sucking creatures timelessly threaten humankind, making them guaranteed to cause threat, suspense and fear amongst audiences when used in films. Director Neil Jordan knew this before starting on Byzantium; he received Oscar-nominations when he transformed Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt into vampires for his 1994 film Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Nearly twenty years on, Jordan revisits his old thematic haunts to make Byzantium, a gothic tale in a modern setting focussing on two female vampires. While there are clear mirrors of his previous work, something forgivable considering the re-use of stock character types, Byzantium stands alone thanks to its relatively seamless relocation of an age-old threat into the modern age.
Arterton is her usual lusty and busty self. As a prostitute-come-pimp, she uses her femininity and devious nature to disguise her vampirism. Fellow lead Saoirse Ronan comes across quietly strong; the younger sister to Arterton’s full-on character, she brings an inconspicuous presence to the role that proves meatier in character depth and emotion. Shot against a moody backdrop of waves crashing into sea walls, the drama is aptly heightened to the cinematic splendour reminiscent of a Baz Luhrmann drama. Such richness enhances the links to the Romantic era and juxtaposes the occasional gore with opulence. Certain elements of the plot are underexplored, but the space given to allow each of the main characters to develop outweighs small oversights of narrative. If your only introduction to fictional vampirism has been through Stephanie Meyer, Byzantium will present you with traditional aspects of the gothic placed in a more familiar British-looking setting.
With thanks to Chapter Arts Centre – www.chapter.org