Byzantium (TheByteScene Review)

Date: November 9th, 2013

TheByteDaily

Byzantium

3 Refreshingly-Different-Vampire-Stories out of 4

Our monsters define every aspect of our existence. Countries, and civilizations fall and rise, they may disagree on their approach to conquest and culture, but our monsters will always define our existence as a species. Vampires, goblins, ghouls, ghosts, and werewolves permeate our stories and feature in our darkest nightmares because these horrific creatures each represent a universal part of our collective psyches. What I’m saying is that I’m not surprised that vampires are so popular in western culture right now because they happen to represent a general fear that features in the hearts of many: Sexual freedom.

Neil Jordan’s Byzantium takes this conversation and combines it with the hypermasculine fear of powerful women. What he creates is a complex, interweaving story about two women clinging together against a world of men attempting to seduce, and slaughter them.

Narrated by and starring Gemma Arterton and Saorise Ronan, Byzantium slowly reveals the stories of Clara and Eleanor Webb, a mother-daughter vampire duo on the run from mysterious men in fashionable suits. Having been transformed over two centuries prior, Arterton’s Clara has only ever known one profession; immortality being what it is, Clara’s forced to use the only skills she has to provide for her daughter whose quest for her own freedom makes up the bulk of the film’s premise.

It’s the classic story about a child ready to leave home and an overprotective parent who knows better except death is far more imminent. That Eleanor falls for a dying boy living along the English country-side is blissfully romantic; that Clara rejects the notion of their “Young” love is more motherly than it is tyrannical.

Sean Bobbit’s cinematography allows for a fluid mix between perverse intimacy and obsessive distance. Scenes between Clara, Eleanor, and The Men They Meet are shot to highlight the bullet points in the conversation on smart people who are very good at selling their bodies. One wonders why savvy men and women of the night don’t apply their marketing skills to other aspects of sales. For Clara, the fact is that she’s very good at convincing men to sleep with her, very good at convincing other women to work for her, and has been practising for over 200 years.

Eleanor serves as Clara’s oft ignored compass; Ronan’s knowing, introspective gaze hides centuries-old wisdom behind her innocent demeanour. She’s a storyteller – rewriting and editing her life’s adventures every time she’s forced to move – and we learn about her past through her literature.

For all of the intense action that’s featured in the film, this is a character driven affair. Make no mistake, this isn’t a vampire movie as much as it is a story about a mother and daughter that happen to be vampires. A sweet film that’s intelligently shot, with random instances of violence that shouldn’t turn off viewers as much as make them question aspects of their species. It’s a film about our monsters and why they make us human. That both vampires and humans are portrayed as equally monstrous is a refreshing alternative.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

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