Byzantium stars Saoirse Ronan as Eleanor Webb, a young girl seen, early on, writing a book about a story which must never be told, and then throws the pages out from her balcony because she doesn’t want anyone to read the whole thing, yet an old man picks them up down below.
Then cut to Clara (Gemma Arterton), working as a lapdancer in a nightclub who gets manhandled by one of the customers, she bites his nose, nicks some money out of the till after they refuse to pay her, then legs it.
All sounds normal so far until you learn of the vampiric aspect of the film which leads to a bloody mess (literally) causing the pair to flee to a new start, something they do a lot. Ending up in the abode of Noel (Daniel Mays), who owns a run-down guesthouse, the Byzantium Hotel, they move in and Clara sets about making money by turning the place into a knocking shop.
Then throw in Ella attracting the attention of a young male waiter, Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), in the restaurant she walks into before elegantly playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 2, No. 3, the actress having undergone an intense 12-week crash course in piano lessons for the film, plus a story around the time of Ella’s birth, 200 years ago, involving soldiers Darvell (Sam Riley) and his superior, Ruthven (Jonny Lee Miller) and Tom Hollander in an uncredited performance as an inquisitive teacher and the whole thing starts feeling like a bit of a mess and continues in that vein. (Vein… blood… someone stop me…)
Note that I don’t poo-poo all modern vampire films – I loved Let The Right One In for example, but Byzantium just didn’t work for me.
By the way, if anyone knows what the brief choral piece is during the end credits, let me know. Shazam couldn’t find it and I didn’t get any results from the music pieces listed later on.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is crisp and issue-free, bringing through the moody dark tones of the piece very well indeed.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, for which I got the 5.1 DTS version and there’s a fair few scenes where events kick off and the speakers are filled, often with the squawking of screaming birds.
There are only a few extras, but some reasonable ones:
- Interviews (56:56): Loads here, starting with director Neil Jordan, before moving on to cast members Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley and Caleb Landry Jones, followed by writer Moira Buffini and a number of crew members. I only watched those from the two female leads and they’re brief Q&A pieces, lasting 4-5 minutes apiece. Don’t expect too much given the amount of time per interview.
- Glasgow Frightfest Q&A (18:24): A piece from the Horror Channel with Neil Jordan, producer Stephen Woolley, Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton, the whole thing clearly suffering from some issues as while it’s in HD, the footage ‘stutters’. The audio’s fine but there’s really something up with the presentation of this. The cast could’ve done with microphones being attached to them, rather than placed randomly in front, making the audio not particularly easy to hear.
- Trailer (2:14): Presented in 16:9. Rather typical content for a trailer. Doesn’t give too much away, thankfully, but just looks rather confusing. Like the film.
The menu features a specific key location and scene set against a short piece the theme music. There are subtitles in English, but, sadly, a lack of chapters with a mere 12 over the 119-minute running time. What is it with studios and their love of just TWELVE paltry chapters?
Oh, and PLEASE STOP PUTTING TRAILERS/ADVERTS BEFORE THE MAIN MENU! THEY GO IN THE EXTRAS SECTION! This disc has 3 trailers for other films. What are they? Not saying. Gah, I hate this practice! WE ARE NOT IN THE AGE OF RENTAL VIDEO! GOT IT?!
Running time: 119 minutes
Released: September 23rd 2013
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Neil Jordan
Producers: Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson, Elizabeth Karlsen, Alan Moloney and Stephen Woolley
Screenplay: Moira Buffini
Music: Javier Navarrete
Eleanor Webb: Saoirse Ronan
Clara: Gemma Arterton
Darvell: Sam Riley
Gareth: Warren Brown
Noel: Daniel Mays
Frank: Caleb Landry Jones
Ruthven: Jonny Lee Miller
Young Clara: Caroline Johns
Gabi: Kate Ashfield
Morag: Maria Doyle Kennedy
Kevin: Tom Hollander
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.