It has been a while since I watched a vampire movie. And I am glad I watched this. Even though it is far from perfect, it is a nice watch.
Just like the poster says, it is directed by Neil Jordan, and it reminded me a lot of Interview with the vampire: the pace, the photography, the way you begin to get acquainted with the characters... It is very dignified, if one keeps in mind the kind of vampire movies that go around these days. I have taken out of the poster the magazine reviews, so you can judge for yourself. One of them said "Twilight for grown ups". It is definitely not that.
As with many vampire movies, we get to see flashbacks, which I found far more interesting than the modern story, that frankly, it kind of irks me. I am tired of whiny teenage vampires that find their existance awful but lack the courage to end it, and when they find a person of the other sex suddenly it all gets better. It has been overused, and I do not find it enticing anymore. I guess that's what earned it the comparision to Twilight, but it is the only thing they have in common. This movie is psychologically violent, and I found disturbing the way that women get treated on it.
As a novel thing, these vampires do not have fangs. Instead, they grow their thumb fingernail when they need to feed to punture blood vessels. I did like that a lot.
The pace is slow, as we have almost 2 hours of movie ahead, and very few characters that lack the personality to carry the story by themselves. Specially since most of the movie the action is set in present time, and with the action centered in Eleanor, the teenage vampire. However, we get to see Jonny Lee Miller (the Sherlock Holmes of Elementary) as a villain. Probably the best drawn character, as you get to hate him from the very beginning. Gemma Arterton is also superb in the way she represents the vampire mother, but as I said, the character's history is not very credible, specially the present time action.
Don't get me wrong. The movie is not terrible, but the script is not well-thought of, and has many points that makes you wonder what the writers were thinking, if they had been thinking at all.
SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED! SPOILERS AHEAD!
I will not describe the movie, but I will point out some problems that I found with it:
- The title, Byzantium, refers to two things that appear in the movie: one hotel that is named so, that gets turned into a brothel; and a blade that appears a total time of one minute, brought back from Byzantium by one of the characters, and that is not relevant to the story at all. I do not get why the need for such title.
- If you name one of the characters Ruthven, I expect him to be a vampire. Lord Ruthven is the name of the vampire in John Polidori's novel The Vampyre. I thought it was a wink to vampire enthusiasts which of course would know this information. It turned out not to be so.
- I did not like the fact that vampirism was a brotherhood in which no women are allowed. More so, you only get to be invited to join if you are wealthy, of noble breeding and deemed "worthy". It strikes me fancy that you are considered worthy even if you are a degenerate pervert that takes teenage girls to brothels to be turned into prostitutes, you do not have a coin to your name, and you are a thief that took over the fortune of your deceased friend.
- Moreover, you get turned into a vampire if you go to a desert island and enter into a cave so something that we do not get to know what it is bites you and turns you into one. If you do not want anybody to enter the cave unauthorized, you hire humans as keepers to guard the place.
- Clara shoots Ruthven in a leg before she takes the box containing the secret map and flees to be turned. She said later she had had mercy of him, and she should not have. Honestly, if a man kidnapped me, turn me over to a brothel, made a prostitute out of me, hit me and raped me each time he saw me, the first thing I would do once turned vampire would be to kill him. But of course, the script needed him for the next turn, which was:
- Ruthven finds out, we do not know how, that Clara has had a girl and that she put her in an orphanage/convent for girls to be safe. He shows up in the convent in the middle of the night, demands to see her, and the nuns not only agreed to that, they let him conduct the interview in a corridor, without supervision. We are supposed to think that he has pay them off to look to the other side, but it is so stretched out I do not believe it. Specially because Clara was paying the nuns for her daughter's expenses.
- The Brotherhood has needed 200 years to find Clara in the same town that she was turned (such as the story is told, I do not have the impression Clara and Eleanor ever left the place). Really?
- The fact that Darvell killed his brother to protect Clara came out of nowhere. Were we supposed to think that he loved her/ was sorry about that happened to her? They barely interacted with each other in the flashbacks to warrant an ending like that.
END OF SPOILERS END OF SPOILERS END OF SPOILERS END OF SPOILERS
I am not sorry I watched but it could have been better with some minor details fixed. And probably with a little less running time and some deleted scenes that were unnecessary. But still, good for a rainy afternoon.