[This is a re-post of my review from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Byzantium opens today in limited release.]
The possibilities of the vampire story have become increasingly limited. The story has been around for so long, and has been done so many ways, especially of late, that it’s difficult for a storyteller to come in and find a new spin within the predefined parameters of what we all agree is a “vampire”: a bloodsucking immortal. In his new film Byzantium, director Neil Jordan has seized upon the “immortal” part and how a vampire would always be, in a sense, frozen in the past and unable to move forward. Consequently, Byzantium has trouble gaining any momentum. As its protagonist moans about telling a story hundreds of times but never finding anyone to listen, the film struggles to find a rhythm and gets bogged down in some cringeworthy dialogue. But the most frustrating aspect of Byzantium is how it fails to pursue a thoughtful, gender-related idea that holds far more potential than another exploration of how vampires are accursed creatures sentenced to wander the earth alone forever and ever anon.