"My story starts with Clara. One day it will end with her."
is a 2013 British-Irish fantasy thriller film directed by Neil Jordan (of Interview with the Vampire
fame). It centres around a mother-daughter vampire duo, who have spent their lives on the run for two centuries.
Clara (Gemma Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan
) have spent decades on the move, never settling too long in one place. When Clara kills another vampire hunting them, they're forced to leave town quickly and decide to lay low in a run-down coastal resort.
After Clara runs into the rather lonely Noel, whilst out hooking for some cash, she convinces him to let them stay at the property his mother left him; the Byzantium Hotel. Whilst her mother starts setting up her business, Eleanor shows increasing signs of frustration and resentment over the life she leads.
Then she runs into a young man named Frank
Byzantium contains examples of:
- Asshole Victim: Ruthven deserves his death many times over.
- Boy Meets Ghoul: The film has Ill Boy Frank meet and subsequently fall for vampire Eleanor.
- Break the Cutie: Captain Ruthven plucks a young Clara from her job picking cockles on the beach, carries her off to a brothel and makes her a whore, turning her into the flawed human being she is now. He also rapes a 16 year old Eleanor to infect her with syphillis and subject her to the same slow, agonising death he faced due to her mother's actions.
- Daywalking Vampire: All the vampires shown have no aversion to sunlight. Most of their activities take place at night, but this appears to be from a desire to stay undetected, not to mention Clara's "occupation".
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Brethren's entire attitude towards women not being allowed to join their ranks, regardless of their merit. Clara's denied entry just over two centuries ago, which in of itself was hardly a time for enlightened views on women in general. But then you realise the Brethen are strongly implied to be much, much older than that and time clearly hasn't shaken the trappings of countless centuries of sexism by the time Clara wants to join. The fact her low birth is also a strike against her falls squarely into this trope too.
- Eldritch Abomination: Whatever it is that inhabits the shrine.
- Eldritch Location: The island.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The vampire brotherhood takes great offense to Clara having stolen the gift of immortality, especially given she's a "low-born" woman. But they have no grounds to execute her as she hasn't broken their code. It seems, woman or not, she's a vampire and they don't kill their own kind without cause. So she's told to keep to their rules and exiled.
- Evil Is Petty: The Brethen have spent two centuries hunting down a mother and her daughter. The reason? Clara was not allowed to sire a vampire because she's a woman. Their motivation is proven to be little more than petty sexism when it's made clear Clara and Eleanor are more than capable of maintaining The Masquerade. In fact hunting them is arguably leaving more evidence around than simply letting them be.
- For the Evulz: The Captain's motivations for his kidnap, imprisonment and repeated rapes of Clara. Throughout film it's made clear he simply enjoys turning innocent girls into sex slaves for his own sick amusement. Clara was just unlucky enough to be his "favourite girl" he'd sold to the brothel.
- Frozen Fashion Sense: Clara & Eleanor dress in clothes that appear to be from the late 70s, early 80s. This may have been the last time they had money to purchase clothes.
- Gender Flip: Critics pointed out that much of the film is basically a gender-flipped take on Jordan's earlier film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire.
- Heel-Face Turn: Darvell decides to turn on the Brethren and save Clara's life rather than blindly follow their rules any longer. In the end he asks to journey with her in the hopes she can forgive him for standing by all those years ago.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Clara towards Eleanor. It is debatable whether she cares for Noel at all, or if she is just using him so she can take over the hotel, though she's noticeably upset when he falls to his death.
- Horrible Judge of Character: What's with nice guy Darvell later thinking Ruthven might be a good, noble recruit for the Brethren? Ruthven raped and forced Clara into whoredom - and it's hardly the first time he's done that - and then abandoned Darvell, robbed his corpse, and stole his estate. WTF?
- I Hate You Vampire Mom: Eleanor quite understandably resents Clara for turning her into a vampire. It's revealed part of her mother's motivation was to to ease her own loneliness rather than simply "saving her." The film takes place after they've had to live on the run and under the radar, for over two centuries, and Eleanor has grown weary of it all.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Clara gains this in her adult life before she turned vampire. She's also shown coughing up blood.
- Ms. Fanservice: Unsurprisingly Clara. Gemma Arterton plays an attractive vampire who spends the vast majority of the movie wearing sexy clothing. And Clara's introduction to viewers is giving someone a lapdance in her underwear.
- Noble Demon: Darvell. Despite the rather elistist company he surrounds himself with he has always shown Clara kindness and is by far the most likeable member of Brethren. His loyalty to the brotherhood is born out of the fact they saved his life. He also respects both Clara and her daughter for how they've chosen their victims. He eventually sides with Clara in the finale.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Poor Noel. He takes in an apparently desperate mother and child and ends up dead for his trouble.
- Off with His Head!: Seems to be the standard means of killing vampires as those that are killed during the story are decapitated.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Clara & Eleanor avoid the V-word mostly, not even really referring to themselves with a specific term. In her stories, Eleanor uses the term "soucriant". They can walk in the sunlight, appear in photographs and mirrors, don't have visible fangs, and no mention is made of crucifixes and garlic. It is hinted when Eleanor goes to Frank's birthday dinner and when Clara tries to kill Frank that they need to be invited in. When they feed, their nails, usually on the thumb, grows rapidly whereupon they slit an artery and drink from it. To be made into a "soucriant", you need to travel to a remote island, enter a creepy shrine and apparently make a deal with the "Nameless Saint". It is stated that only those who are willing or ready to die can be turned into a vampire.
- Parental Incest: Ruthven raped Eleanor, who is quite possibly his daughter. Not that he'd care.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Nearly all members of the vampire Brethren hold very open contempt for women.
- Rain of Blood: Well, waterfall of blood, anyway.
- Rape as Drama: Basically, rape is the genesis of the film - Clara's, and later Eleanor's, rapes at the hands of the Captain make them "ready to die" and allow them to become vampires.
- Shout-Out: Captain Ruthven's name is obviously a shout-out to Polidori's The Vampyre. And a subversion of Meaningful Name, as he never becomes a vampire.
- Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Clara & Eleanor are fairly amiable, and don't seem to enjoy killing, nor are they totally ruled by their hunger. Clara only kills "bad" men like pimps, while Eleanor takes old and sick people who have expressed a wish to die. However, Clara describes herself as "ruthless" and shows it - garrotting Werner, killing the pimp to take his business, killing Kevin to keep the secret, attempting to kill Frank and she'd have killed Morag too if she'd got to her first.
- Clara's ruthlessness, though, may not come from being a vampire, only abetted by it, such as when she shot the Captain back when she was human
- Stronger with Age: Seemingly averted. Clara is able to kill Werner with relative ease and wrestles Savella to the ground despite both being older than her (Savella having lived through the Crusades). It is unknown if the vampires actually have super strength or if it's just proportional to their height and weight like humans. Though Clara being able to easily overpower men to feed on them and punch through a windscreen like it was nothing suggests they are at least much stronger than humans.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No one even seems to take any notice of Noel's bloody corpse on top of the elevator near the end.
- Vampire Invitation: Not made totally obvious in the film. Clara & Eleanor wait for invitations when entering any residence, but there is no discussion as to whether they can enter or not if they don't get one. When Clara tries to kill Frank, she demands to be invited in or that he should come outside. She's stopped from going any further by the phone call hijacked by Savella.
- Waistcoat of Style: Frank's usual attire.