I know I said this in another post but the mid 1980′s through the early 1990′s were a great time to be alive if you liked vampire movies. You could have your vampires funny (The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), scary (Near Dark), or both (Fright Night.) The 1994 Neil Jordan feature Interview with the Vampire added gorgeous to the list. I’ve loved this movie for so long that I can’t even remember if I read the book first or saw the movie first. I’m pretty sure it was a staple of slumber parties while growing up. Since I love this movie and book so much, I think I should warn you that this is probably the most biased entry I’ve ever written.
The movie opens with a long shot of San Francisco at night and eventually closes in on Louis (Brad Pitt) in a room with Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater.) Louis admits that he was hunting Daniel but when he realized that Daniel was a reporter he instead decided to tell him his life story.
Louis became a vampire in 1791, while in a deep depression over the death of his wife and child (A difference from the book that I promise I’ll nitpick later.) He’s living dangerously, even by 1790′s standards, and manages to attract the attention of a vampire, Lestat (Tom Cruise.)
Lestat offers Louis “the choice I never had,” (Oh, Lestat, you great drama queen), which Louis accepts. Louis becomes an immortal vampire, though he’s less accepting of his need to hunt humans to quench his blood lust. The movie follows the pair as Lestat tries to teach Louis how to vamp.
One night, Louis finds a child, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), and drinks from her without killing her. Lestat takes Claudia and turns her into a vampire, knowing that Louis would never leave the child.
The trio lives in relative peace until Claudia realizes that she’s never going to grow up and is trapped with the mind of a full-grown woman in a child’s body. Claudia directs her fury at Lestat who she tries to kill–twice–before travelling to Europe with Louis in search of more vampires.
Louis and Claudie both meet their fate in Paris at the hands of the Théâtre des Vampires and its leader, the 400-year-old Armand (Antonio Banderas.)
Armand allows the coven to execute Claudia for killing Lestat, knowing that Louis will take his vengeance on them, with the hope that Louis will become his new companion. Louis chooses to face the future alone and we see him living through the 1900′s to the present (Well, 1990′s.)
I love this movie to death. I think that part of the reason is that I found it as a preteen. When you’re young and disappointed with everything, you want to be special and chosen, this movie and series offers a ray of hope that maybe one day you can be beautiful and powerful. I’m just glad that I was way too old for Twilight. Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer both like purple prose and beautiful immortals, although I like Anne Rice’s much more because they manage to do vampire stuff and aren’t neutered.
That being said, I think that the movie actually holds up well, especially when you realize that it’s almost twenty-years-old. I particularly love the music. It’s an orchestra mixed with a boys’ choir and I think it manages to capture the pain that Louis feels as he ages.
The visuals are also gorgeous. I’ve always been particularly fond of the scene after Louis is changed and the statue seems to stare at him.
The costuming really stuns me. Sometimes I’ll watch a period piece and I’ll be really annoyed because I’ll notice that a fabric color didn’t exist then or a hairstyle wasn’t popular then, but watching this movie reminds me of paintings from the time period.
Stan Winston Studios did the effects and I think they’ve aged well. Here are some of my favorite shots:
What I think really anchors this movie for me are its performances. Honestly, I think that Brad Pitt is acceptable in the movie. Frankly, he comes off as very flat but I can accept that in a character who’s probably been clinically depressed since forever. As much as I hate to admit it, I really love Tom Cruise in this movie. Actually, this is probably the only movie of his that I like. Anne Rice wasn’t pleased with him being cast as Lestat but upon screening the movie she actually wrote him and apologized. Tell me he doesn’t win the movie as Lestat.
He’s just so meme-able.
The other performance that sells the movie is Kirsten Dunst as Claudia. I honestly haven’t seen a lot of what she’s done as a grown actor, and what I’ve seen hasn’t impressed me, and I wonder if she’ll ever create something as awesome as her performance in this movie. She moves from doll-like innocence to ruthlessness and cold fury. Dunst was twelve when she was in the movie but manages to portray a character who’s a grown woman effectively.
The screenplay was written by Anne Rice and Neil Jordan so it’s actually mostly faithful to the books, unlike the abortion known as Queen of the Damned, which I definitely won’t be reviewing. As a reader of the books, two things really stick out to me. The first is the source of Louis’ grief at the beginning. In the book, Louis is arguing with his younger brother, a pious young man who claimed to have religious visions. His brother slipped on the stairs and died and Louis always carried that grief with him, not only that his brother died while arguing, but the fact that he never believed him. That makes grieving over a wife lost in childbirth seem kind of shallow by comparison. The other issue for me is the casting of Armand. In the books, he’s described as appearing sixteen-years-old, although he’s actually 400-years-old. You know who doesn’t look like that?
I just think it’s creepier when Armand looks sixteen but you realize he’s older than any of the vampires you’ve been introduced to and that he’s absolutely ruthless.
I guess those are small nitpicks, though, especially when a book you love is turned into a movie. So, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I absolutely recommend them. I also recommend this recent release, Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story. It’s a manga of the events in Interview with the Vampire, as told from Claudia’s perspective. It gave me insight into her character and was actually made with the blessing (Although, not the input) of Anne Rice. The illustrations are lush, mostly sepia-tones with hints of red, and the actual book looks like something that would belong in Lestat and Louis’ library.