Byzantium (2013)

これは本当の私… This is the real me…
(May Contain Spoilers)

After the Twilight saga redefined Vampire as long legged, smirking, sparkling, heavily powdered creature with fangs, the creature become a hyper-sexualized pop culture icon. A banal embodiment of thousands of adolescent girls (and probably boys) wet dreams. Neil Jordan‘s Byzantium is a welcome change, delivering a smart and engaging tale of a Vampire. You might remember him from his critically acclaimed adaptation of Anne Rice’s vampire romance, Interview With The Vampire (1994).

Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) have walked the earth for the last 200 years. The mysterious duo has a deep, dark secret. They’re the undead. 16 years old Eleanor angelic features is marred by her own brooding and melancholy. While Clara, always the whore that she is, only changed her tight corseted frocks to leathers and skin-tight minis, both flaunting her voluptuous body and ample bosoms. When their past caught up with them, the girls must hitchhiked to a nearby seaside town.  From the helping hand of a lonely stranger, Noel (Daniel Mays) the girls found a much needed shelter. Clara turned his rundown ‘Byzantium’ hotel, inherited courtesy of his mum, into a brothel. While Eleanor reluctantly befriended a young local boy called Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), suffering from morbid leukemia. Against her better judgement, she trust him with centuries-old her story, one she’s been dying to share. Lulled by the soothing sounds of rolling waves, the two started to find themselves falling into the rhythm of the english coastal town. Little did they know, the past they tried so hard to get away from, are about to caught up with them.

Byzantium does not shy away from violence, it portrays vampire as ruthless and possess enough abilities to create a massacre if they need it be. Now, these vampires does not suckled blood from their victim necks. They tore the jugular or the veins with their pointed nails. In the case of Eleanor, she feasted on the ones that are already at the death’s door, it’s her own rule, it’s her tradition. It was also one of the most hauntingly beautiful image i’ve ever seen in vampire films. I never thought the image of a vampire feasting on the flesh of the living can be so moving. Just like Eleanor, Byzantium is riddled with traditions. Not surprising given the historical edge of the story, everything is derived from the tradition: the conversion, the rituals, the  Even the past that haunts both girls are a manifestation of traditions.

Two hundred years of history were told through non-linear narrative, utilizing flashback to unravel the history of both women and their haunting past. While i don’t mind them, I think Jordan intended some of it as a twist to the plot, although they do not work for me and i thought was not a worthy the climatic built up. And i can do without the last quarter of the film that made me feel the film lost and confused how to wrap up the journey. The thing that fascinates me about Byzantium is actually the tale between Eleanor point of view to the story and the romance she shared with the alabaster shy and fragile Frank. An adolescent romance that has maturity beyond its years. The tale beautifully captured by Sean Bobbitt (a frequent collaborator with McQueen: Hunger, Shame), through his cinematography captures the sombre mood of the brooding young Eleanor through powerful imagery. Javier Navarrete poignant score, perfectly capturing the elegiac nature of the film.

Byzantium complicated story was embodied by excellent actors. Gemma Artenton struts throughout the film as a whore with sultry persona and enough campness. While X-Men’s Banshee, Caleb Landry Jones morphed into the pale and fragile, ailing boy. I was impressed by him and his innocent admiration towards Eleanor, portraying a borderline tragic adolescent love, without cloying, schmaltzy romance. Saoirse Ronan, is brilliant as the pensive and poignant Vampire, Eleanor. Not a huge surprise because i don’t expect anything less from her. Portraying 200 years of burden with doleful eyes filled by unspoken loneliness of an enigmatic old soul forever trapped in her immortal youth.

“I throw my story to the wind. Never will I tell it more. Another one begins.”

I enjoyed Byzantium so  much. It was sad that this kind of film did not capture a lot of attention from cinema-goers. When i watched it last week, there were only 8-10 patrons inside of the theater. Blitzmegaplex is still screening Byzantium, at the time this review is published, go watch the film and see for yourself this riveting tale of young love that blurred the line between fantasies and real world.


GENRE Thriller, Fantasy, Romance
DIRECTOR Neil Jordan | PRODUCER Sam Englebardt | WRITER Moira Buffini | MUSIC Javier Navarrete | CINEMATOGRAPHER Sean Bobbitt | EDITOR Tony Lawson | DISTRIBUTOR StudioCanal | COUNTRY United States, United Kingdom, Ireland | BUDGET £8 million | RUNNING TIME 118 minutes | RATING R for bloody violence, sexual content, and language | RELEASE June 28, 2013 (US), May 31, 2013 (UK)
STARRING Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Artenton, Sam Riley, Daniel Mays, Jonny Lee Miller, Caleb Landry Jones, Thure Lindhardt, Tom Hollander

Stills are partially from IMDb | Official Site (jp) | Trailer

…I write of what I cannot speak, the truth. I write all I know of it, then I throw that pages to the wind, maybe the birds can read it.


2 thoughts on “Byzantium (2013)

    • All thanks to Sean Bobbitt crafts of course! I hope you can catch it on blu ray chris. I think more people should see it :)

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