Having first entered the realm of the undead with ‘Interview with a Vampire’ in 1994, director Neil Jordan is back with another soap opera with teeth.
‘Byzantium’ centres around Gemma Arteton’s Clara – an unscrupulous, hardworking, blood-sucking prostitute, on the run with her daughter Eleanor, played by Saoirse Ronan. Whilst the ‘Song for Marion’ star was attracted to the innate neo-feminism underpinning the film’s narrative, it was her character’s family life which interested her most. As she explains:
“The reason I wanted to do this film was the relationship between the mother and daughter. We’ve all been there, especially through the teenage years, that relationship is very very fragile and temperamental and is something very psychologically strange and that’s what I really felt drawn to.”
Hunted for the last two centuries by the boys-only vampire club, The Brotherhood, Clara manages to find refuge in a deserted art nouveau hotel, where she mixes consummation with her customers with consumption of her customers. Whilst this is inherently flawed as a business model, it is the unraveling of her relationship with the vulnerable and principled Eleanor which troubles her most.
For Saoirse Ronan, her character’s difficult relationship with her mother is understandable.
“She’s somebody who really has the weight of everything on her shoulders. It’s something that Clara just seems to forget about and move on with, because she’s gone through so much really, whereas Eleanor doesn’t know the whole story and so is kind of desperate to really bring out the truth about themselves. She does that through storytelling but there’s times when, if you’ve been with your mother for 200 years and nobody else, I think you’re going to have those tense moments,” she explains.
Simultaneously both pursued and pursuers, mother and daughter find themselves eternally trapped in the gruesome world of gothic, gurgled blood-letting.
Out now in Ireland and the UK, ‘Byzantium’ has more than enough to sink your teeth into.