It’s been a long time since director Neil Jordan first tackled the vampire genre with his now classic adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) but he’s now brought something new to the genre with his equally inventive film Byzantium (2013). Written by Moira Buffini and based on her play “A Vampire Story” this is tale of two women cursed with immortality in a world in which it is unlawful for women to be vampires.
Clara and her daughter Eleanor (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, respectfully) are on the run. They’ve always been on the run and it is just another part of their immortal life as vampires. Clara broke the number rule of the vampire legion which is that there are no female vampires. This hasn’t stopped her from trying to give Eleanor a fruitful life. She peddles her way in the underworld of street life finding victims where the more polite society would never even notice anyone missing. Eleanor is a dreamer and just as she is getting used to the monotony of her existence she suddenly falls for an ailing human. This sets off a chain reaction where their existence comes into jeopardy as they are being hunted down.
It’s actually quite hard to believe that this is in fact a vampire film as Jordan and Buffini throw away all the conventional motifs for a vampire film the most striking of which is how they are made and how they feed. This is really a story of two women with different ideologies living in a male dominated world and using everything they have to survive and overcome adversity at every turn. Jordan’s cinematic style fits nicely with this film in which the relationship between the main characters echoes the trajectory of the relationship between the characters in his earlier film Interview With the Vampire. It’s uncanny how similar the two films are alike.
The performances are also top notch as both Arterton and Saoirse are magnificent together and are supported by an equally capable cast. This film is a breath of fresh air for the vampire genre and the genre as a whole which has not been in good standing (in my opinion) especially since the majority now being released are comedies and farces or bad action B-movies. Jordan has not only produced another great film (among many) but one of the better vampire films to be released in the last decade.