Trailer Tuesday: Byzantium

Once upon a time, vampires didn't sparkle. Being an immortal blood drinker came with certain perks - the super strength and enhanced senses particularly - but also a number of serious, depressing drawbacks: outliving everyone you ever loved, never feeling sunlight again, suffering from permanent unbearable thirst, being unable to settle anywhere for long and having to keep a secret about your true nature from the world or suffer the dreadful consequences.

Once upon a time, this tortured but irresistibly beautiful creature was the standard type of "sympathetic" or "hero" vampire. And its existence owed a lot to author Anne Rice and her decadent Vampire Chronicles.  In turn, director Neil "The Crying Game" Jordan brought Rice's first and most famous Vampire Chronicle, Interview with the Vampire to the big screen in 1994, with the conflicted, emotionally complicated vamps played by the likes of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater and Kirsten Dunst. That was a one good-looking cast.

Personally, Interview with the Vampire remains my favourite ever vampire film, while Rice's Queen of the Damned is my favourite ever vampire novel. For a long time - well before Twilight and True Blood triggered vampire over-saturation in our book stores and on our screens - I was even working on an epic vampire romance in the Rice mould... But I digress.

When I heard Neil Jordan was making another vampire film, I was instantly intrigued. And watching the trailer for Byzantium above, I now desperately want to watch this supernatural thriller... which features the old school style of immortal blood-drinkers.

Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan play a mother-daughter pair of vampires. Although they don't have fangs and can walk around during the day, they've been leading an unsatisfying nomadic existence for over 200 years. Most recently they end up at a run-down coastal resort. Mom Clara immediately sets about doing what she's always done to survive - whoring and feeding - while introverted daughter Eleanor forms a bond with terminally ill teenager Frank (Caleb Landry Jones). However, the women live live on the run for a reason. Two male vampires (Jonny Lee Miller and Sam Riley) and their "brotherhood" have been hunting them for centuries, intent on eradicating the "aberration" that is female vampires. And it looks like the boys may have just caught up with them...

Irish indie production Byzantium premiered in September last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. Reviews have been mixed for this leisurely adaptation of a play by Moira Buffini (who also wrote the screenplays for 2011's Jane Eyre and 2010's Tamara Drewe). Sitting somewhere between mainstream and art house - which isn't necessarily a bad thing - Byzantium is nonetheless moodily elegant, beautifully shot and a bit too serious for its own good. Or so the critics say.

I have to say I'm especially interested in the feminist angle the film seems to put on the topic of vampirism.

Anyway, IFC has snapped up the rights to distribute the film in North America, although currently no release date has been set for the region. The same goes for South Africa, so I expect we'll be waiting quite some time to watch this one. And if Byzantium does surface at local cinemas expect it to be at Cinema Nouveau only, with little to no fanfare.


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