Art & Culture

Although I am keen to admire Neil Jordan’s film, I cannot sincerely say that this struck me as anything in the way of a return to form, even with the inclusion of a vampire theme.

Is it just me or have we not had enough vampire stories to last for several lifetimes? As the Twilight series finally comes to an end, and True Blood still shocks and attracts viewers, there seems to have been an awful lot of neck-munching going on, and it’s about time someone put a stake to it.

Except that here’s another one, dripping gore.

Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) are a pair of sisters living in contemporary Brighton. Except they’re not. They’re mother and daughter and have been the same age for 200 years. Worse still, their being female is a big problem. Vampires is a boy’s only club, and the guys are hunting them down. They have a cover of sorts in a sleazy old house which operates as a kind of brothel. But although Clara is well into the blood-sucking business, Eleanor has qualms, and prefers to help people who are on their way out of life, a kind of mobile hospice. In the course of her hospital visits, she comes across young Frank who has leukaemia, and decides she rather likes him. In fact, she’d really rather get away from Clara and live a more normal life.

The film also takes us back to the early 19th century when not only the two young women but also young officer Darvell (Sam Riley) have their moment of revelation – which takes place in a stone hut on a remote island for some reason. The problem with this dual time period is that it makes things more rather than less confusing. Although Eleanor is the character we identify with, the rest of the cast’s motives are somewhat obscure. Worse still, the period scenes play less convincingly than Interview With The Vampire, Jordan’s last excursion into the world of big teeth. Although, to be fair, the vampires in Byzantium sinply have a fingernail that grows and sharpens at the right moment, and is then inserted into the victim’s neck, before the vampire applies his or mouth to the incision. They also don’t seem to have any objection to daylight. Very versatile creatures.

I know that some people see vampire movies as a metaphor for this, that and the other, which is fair enough if you make it moderately clear what message you’re trying to put across. But Without that added element, they are beginning to feel like yesterday’s news, and – dare I say? – need a new injection of blood.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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