|Directed by||Neil Jordan|
|Produced by||Sam Englebardt
William D. Johnson
|Written by||Moira Buffini|
|Music by||Javier Navarrete|
|Editing by||Tony Lawson|
|Running time||118 minutes|
|Box office||$85,252 (US only)|
Byzantium is a 2012 British-Irish fantasy thriller film directed by Neil Jordan and starring Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, and Jonny Lee Miller. The story concerns a mother and daughter vampire duo. The film premiered at the Irish Film Institute in April 2013 and was commercially released the following month. It has received generally positive reviews.
The film begins with an old man picking up a discarded note dropped by teenage vampire Eleanor Webb (Ronan), who has taken to writing her life story, but then throwing the individual pages to the wind. Realising what she is, the old man invites Eleanor to his house, and tells her his life story, before explaining that he is ready for death. Eleanor proceeds to kill him with a talon grown from her right thumbnail, and consume his blood. Elsewhere, Eleanor's mother, Clara (Arterton), is chased from the strip club where she has been working by Werner, a member of the vampiric Brethren, who demands to know where Eleanor is. Clara decapitates Werner, burns his body and leaves town with her daughter.
Eleanor and Clara seek sanctuary in a dilapidated coastal resort. There, Clara sets her sights on a lonely soul named Noel (Daniel Mays), who has just inherited the Byzantium Hotel, a once-thriving business that has fallen into disrepair. Meanwhile, Eleanor plays the piano in a restaurant and is approached by a young waiter named Frank (Jones), who takes a shine to her. Having seduced Noel, Clara turns the Byzantium into a makeshift brothel and Eleanor joins the local college which Frank attends. Interested in her past, Frank questions Eleanor, who writes her story for him to read.
The story begins during the Napoleonic Wars, when a young Clara encounters two Royal Navy officers, the cruel Captain Ruthven and the mild-mannered Midshipman Darvell. Much to the dismay of Darvell, Clara leaves with Ruthven, who forces her into prostitution. When Eleanor is born, Clara leaves her daughter at the local private orphanage to spare her life, and secretly visits her at night. Years later, Clara is dying of what appears to be tuberculosis when the brothel is visited by Darvell, who has become a vampire. He gives Ruthven a map to an island where people can become vampires if they are willing to die. Clara shoots Ruthven in the foot, steals the map, and makes her way to the island to become a vampire. The Brethren, a secret society of vampires which protects the island, are appalled that a low-born prostitute has joined their ranks, but their leader, Savella, decides that it would be a violation of their code to kill another vampire unjustly, so they decide to let her go, warning her that she faces death if she violates their code, and that she may play no part in their brotherhood. However, years later, Clara's decision to spare Ruthven comes back to haunt her, when the vengeful captain turns up at Eleanor's orphanage, and rapes her in the attic, infecting her with a venereal disease that he was carrying. Clara arrives too late to stop him, and kills him in a fit of distress. Now forced to choose between incurring the Brethren's wrath, or watch her daughter die a slow, painful death, Clara takes Eleanor to the island and has her transformed into a vampire, violating the Brethren's code. Clara and Eleanor then spend the next two centuries hiding from the Brethren's agents.
Back in the present day, Eleanor has fallen in love with Frank and decides to help him turn into a vampire so they can be together, since he will otherwise die from leukemia. Clara finds out that Eleanor has told Frank of their past and decides to kill him. In the scuffle to subdue Eleanor, Noel is killed. While Clara is out dealing with Frank, the Brethren find out from Eleanor's teacher where she is and go there with her, on the pretence of wanting to help. Clara leaves without killing Frank when she realises that Eleanor is in mortal danger. Savella and Darvell take Eleanor into their custody and drive her to an abandoned location with the intent to destroy her, only to be stopped by Clara. Savella battles Clara and ultimately subdues her. He hands Darvell a sword, and orders him to execute her. However, Darvell, who has always harboured feelings for Clara, instead swings the blade and beheads Savella with it. With the Brethren now destroyed, Clara parts ways with Eleanor, before going off with Darvell, while Eleanor takes Frank to the island to turn him into a vampire.
- Saoirse Ronan as Eleanor Webb
- Gemma Arterton as Clara Webb
- Sam Riley as Midshipman Darvell
- Jonny Lee Miller as Captain Ruthven
- Daniel Mays as Noel
- Caleb Landry Jones as Frank
- Maria Doyle Kennedy as Morag
- Warren Brown as Gareth
- Thure Lindhardt as Werner
The film was released in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2013, and received a limited release in North America on 28 June 2013.
Byzantium received generally positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 62% based on reviews from collected 102 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4. The site's consensus reads: "Director Neil Jordan remains as expert as ever when it comes to setting a chilling mood, but Byzantium struggles to match its creepily alluring atmosphere with a suitably compelling story." Metacritic gave the film a "generally favorable" score of 66% based on reviews from 22 sampled reviewers.
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- Hogan, Louise (29 April 2013). "In the director's chair: injured Jordan refuses to miss Byzantium premiere". Independent.ie. Retrieved 2014-01-06.
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- Byzantium at the Internet Movie Database
- Filmed in Hastings (UK) – http://www.famouslyhastings.com/visit/byzantium/