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April 26, 2013

Tribeca Film Festival Preview: Byzantium

by Curtis John


Friday, April 26, 4pm (AMC Loews Village 7)

Saturday, April 27, 8:30pm (SVA Theatre)

Tickets: $8 – 16 (SOLD OUT, possible Rush Line availability)

Series: Spotlight


Eighteen years ago, director Neil Jordan enhanced the horror and fantasy genres with his hit film Interview with the Vampire. After setting the bar high, contemporary audiences were left with the fan-favorite yet aesthetically lacking Twilight series. Well, Jordan has now returned to the genre with Byzantium, a beautifully crafted, emotionally involving, and surprisingly feminist film starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, 2008) and Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 2013).

Teenager Eleanor (Ronan) is an introverted, talented writer and pianist who is constantly sheltered by her extra-protective “sister” Clara (Arterton), an extrovert who uses her wild sexuality to provide for the family. Despite their opposing natures they share one thing: a dark secret that they have both been hiding from the world for 200 years. This secret puts them constantly on the move from one English town to another until it lands them in a small, mysterious seaside town where Clara uses her carnal skills to secure a roof over their heads—the run-down but classically built Byzantium Hotel. But this town holds sway over Eleanor as she begins to realize it is the place of their birth, and flashes of history provide Eleanor with a desperate need to share her real story even though it may destroy her and Clara’s lives. As Eleanor develops a strange kinship with a local boy (Caleb Landry Jones, Antiviral, 2012), she confides in him. Clara does her best to clean up her sister’s public revelations, but a secret order of vampires chasing the pair no longer allows any secrets to be contained.

Ronan continues to be a powerhouse actor, imbuing Eleanor with empathy and a strongly focused teenage rebelliousness. Arterton is at her all-time best in Byzantium, perfectly playing the duality of cold-blooded prostitute and caring “sister.” Jordan has once-again proven that he’s an auteur, creating a distinctive look and feel for the film, including tight spaces surrounding Ronan and a darkness engulfing Arterton that provides the viewer with forebodingness. But no worries, there are still enough displays of blood to make this a true vampire film. Coupled with a fantastically original perspective on vampire origins and “feeding” from screenwriter Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre, 2011), Byzantium should pleasure horror and casual fans alike.

Limité Rating: 4/5


Director: Neil Jordan

Genre: Narrative, Drama, Fantasy

Country: USA

Runtime: 118 min.


The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 17 – 28 in New York City.

Follow Limité Film Writer Curtis John on Twitter (@MediaManWatch) and check out his film and television blog,

posted by: Curtis John
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