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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Byzantium

  Tuesday 9th April 2013

Opening night press screening for the Tribeca Film Festival saw the premiere of Byzantium – a film centered around vampires. 

For quite some time our cultural imagination has been attracted to fantasy, filling entertainment with cravings for zombies and vampires. Though the obsession has certainly passed its prime, director Neil Jordan works to keep the genre afloat. 

Byzantium follows Eleanor and Clara, two vampires in Ireland. Like most of their kind, moving from place to place is common – a must due to their murderous craving for human blood.  After their latest move, Clara, the older and leader of the two, finds lodging with the lonely Noel, owner of the hotel Byzantium. To get her way, Clara uses her seductive charm to sway Noel to turn the hotel into a brothel. Everything is going to plan until Eleanor, pent up with frustration, divulges their secret to her new friend Robert. 

Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton lead Byzantium as Eleanor and Clara. The former is nearly mute in the opening half, only to shake the restraints of her chrysalis during the second, making for a memorable performance. The latter is seductive in her supporting role. Even the audience fell for the alluring nature of Clara. The fire-and-ice duo gives Byzantium uneven intrigue that is very pleasing. 

Judging from the successes (and failures) of the current fantasy genre, it appears that creators must embrace the camp quality inherent to it, or abhor it. Neil Jordan fails to follow this logic, much to the chagrin of his viewers.  One suspects the comic aspects of Byzantium - of which there are many – were not planned. With the lush portrait of Ireland and sleight-of-hand narrative, there is an impulse to like Byzantium, yet it is fleeting. While the aesthetic palette may be satisfied, the want of a well-developed story is not. 

Verdict: ••

Daniel Engelke 

For further information on the Tribeca Film Festival visit here. Byzantium is released nationwide on 28th June.

Watch the trailer for Byzantium here:

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