Byzantium – TIFF 2012
While waiting in line for another movie I overheard a girl discussing Byzantium. She said it “was weird. Like, I feel like it’s not a very good film, but I liked it?”. I chuckled, Tweeted it, and mentioned it to Chantelle before we actually sat down to watch it. And then, 118 minutes later I turned back to her to agree completely with the sentiment. Byzantium is not a very good movie, but I liked it?
I had hoped that it would be at least ok, since it is brought to us by Neil Jordan, 18 years after he gave us Interview With The Vampire. The fact that he was tackling the subject of vampires again, and featuring Saoirse Ronan it seemed like it would be pretty strong. But unfortunately it instead fell into the boring and predictable category. Point number 1 is the identity of Claire/Clara. The movie treats it like a mystery even though the characters know. There’s no real reason for it, because the reveal isn’t very shocking. Apparently IMDb considers it so obvious that the tagline for the film is “A mother and daughter vampire duo form a deadly pact.” Whoops! 2 is the fact that they completely misused Saoirse. I like her a lot – she was great in Hanna and in Violet & Daisy. But she’s clearly become typecast, used to play the wide-eyed innocent with a deadly secret. But I don’t want to see her swan around looking like an anime character, I want to see some depth and drama. Of which we got very little.
What is most confusing to me in the movie is the assumption that these vampires have lived for 200 years. Neither of the actresses do a very good job of conveying the old-soul aspect of such longevity, and they also seem to have very poor survival instincts. Eleanor (Saoirse) confesses her life story to authorities and then is shocked (shocked!) when it all crashes down on her. Sadly it’s just not terribly interesting. It’s hard to care about the characters, and they just didn’t come across as supernatural enough to help me suspend my disbelief. Frankly I’m a bit baffled that something so weak could have come from such a seasoned director. I hope that everyone bounces back from it quickly though, and that Saoirse is given the chance to show a broader range of skills.