Wednesday, July 10, 2013
In his varied career, Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan has shown a particular gift for weaving eerie folklore and fairy tale sensibilities in and out of so-called "real" life.
So to call his new film, Byzantium, a mere "vampire movie" doesn't begin to suggest the lush and disturbing depths and subtle textures of this provocative and atmospheric tale.
Told from a refreshingly female perspective, with a time-traveling narrative and a rich subtext about storytelling and its consequences, it revitalizes the notion of what a vampire movie can be.
Byzantium was scripted by Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe), based on her stage play A Vampire Story. (She claims it was inspired—very loosely—by the Victorian Gothic story, "Camille," by Sheridan Le Fanu.)
Fleeing a murder scene in a nearby town, two young women come to roost in a bleak English seaside town in the off season. Clara (Gemma Arterton) is a brash, savvy, beautiful prostitute and lap dancer. Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) an introspective 16-year-old who was raised in a convent, calls Clara "My savior, my burden, my muse."
We see right off that the women have an unholy taste for blood (but no fangs are involved; a protruding thumbnail does the trick). Nor do these blood-drinkers fly, possess superhuman strength, turn to dust in the daylight, or morph into bats. All that sets them apart is their immortality.
In flashbacks to the Napoleonic era, we see how each woman was initiated into the Brotherhood of the Immortal (operative word: brotherhood), and how they have since turned the tables on the Old Boy's Club of the undead, "to punish those who prey on the weak (and) to curb the power of men."
The film can be slow going for awhile, but I find this forgivable as long as the film finally does get somewhere. And the payoff in Byzantium is its own reward. (Read more)
This one opens this Friday (July 12 ) at the Del Mar, only two shows daily, so don't miss it!