So I finally watched Byzantium. The ending is massively disappointing compared to the rest of it.
Spoiler warning. Do not read on if you don't want the ending discussed.
It does not take overthinking this symbolism to see the feminist thread in this. The vampire Old Boys Club flat out says that women are not permitted to create (new vampires). One of the female characters flat out says that she'll use her vampire powers to "protect the helpless and undermine the power of men" or something to that effect.
So I'm not overthinking anything. It's explicit in the movie. So then the ending comes round.
Two of the Old Boys Club have taken both women captive, daughter is handcuffed in the car with the younger man, the older man has finally ran down the mother and subdued her. After the daughter pleads with the young man, seemingly ineffectively, he brings a large sword to the old man. I don't think it's a stretch to think of a large sword (the only one seen in the movie) as a phallic symbol.
Instead of handing the old man the sword, the young man cuts his head off with it. That is where I have a problem.
The young man is revealed to have been wanting to help the girls the whole time. Okay, but where is the power? The phallic sword is still the source of power in the climactic scene. It is wielded by the young man. Both girls' power has been taken away from them at this point.
He is rescuing them because he has the power to do so.
This pisses me off. In a movie that is entirely centered around the theme of women and men and power, why the HELL is this a good ending? And what's worse is it's so easily fixed.
He could let the daughter out of the handcuffs. She could take the sword and free her (disempowered) mother. How awesome would that be to the theme of adulthood? After all this the two finally separate in their journeys, the mother saying, effectively, it's time for you to be an adult. It still makes the young man be integral to the plot and it would be much cooler to see him, conflicted, give in to the reason and appeals of the daughter.
It gives him a character dilemma instead of secretly being on their side the whole time. It empowers the daughter, when she has been protected and "cared for" by her mother most of the movie. It gives a woman the power to strike back against an oppressive male figure instead of the only recourse being a man striking another man.
Why bring up issues of women's empowerment if what they need to get out of the climactic (and symbolic) battle is One Good Man? sigh
So yeah. Very good movie with a very disappointing symbolic ending. I disapprove and I hope I can find the book and see how it was.