Interview With a Vampire Speaks to a More Old School Audience
Immortality at the cost of killing others is not an easy price to pay and considering that almost all the vampires ever shown were ‘previously human’, it is not something they can avoid. There’s a deep emotional and psychological burden that eventually takes its toll. It is this inevitable burden that casts a wide shadow across all the characters of Interview With a Vampire, and rightfully so. While the story is essentially a narrative about a relationship between two men (the original novel was homoerotic, though this was downplayed heavily in the film), the notion that the two characters are also vampires plays deeply into the tale, and it is an element that cannot be removed or replaced in the narrative.
For the Record
The entirety of the movie is told as a flashback. As the title suggests, a vampire is being interviewed, and the topic is the vampire’s life since he was first turned. Louis hails from the very late 1700’s, and after falling into despair after the death of this family, he encounters a vampire named Lestat. Lestat turns Louis into a vampire, but soon realizes that Louis is not fond of killing people in order to live. Not wanting to be left alone, Lestat turns a young girl into a vampire –turning her into a surrogate daughter for Louis to take care of. However, the young girl, named Claudia, mentally matures over the years while her body remains eternally childlike. This eventually pushes her to turn against Lestat, and she runs away with Louis (but not before temporarily incapacitating Lestat with the blood of a corpse).
Louis and Claudia end up joining a small coven of vampires led by Armand. This coven pretends to be a theater group in order to hide among the normal humans. When Claudia realizes that Louis and Armand are becoming close, she demands that Louis turn a human woman, Madeline, into vampire companion for her. The three manage to live happily for a bit, but when the other theater vampires learn that Louis and Claudia attacked Lestat, they are captured and tried. Madeline and Claudia are executed by exposure to the sun while Louis stays captive. Eventually, Armand manages to free Louis who quickly exacts revenge on the other vampires. With Claudia and Madeline gone, he spends the rest of life alone.
The interview ends there, but the interviewer, marveled at the power of vampirism, asks Louis to turn him. Louis is angered at this, considering that the interviewer seems to be ignoring the way that vampires and their immortal lives are constantly surrounded by (and are part of) tragedy.
Power at a Cost
Like all old school vampires, Rice’s bloodsuckers all enjoy the benefits of eternal life, youth, as well as superhuman speed and strength (and a few other unique capabilities like hypnosis, being able to float, etc). But of course, there’s the caveat of not only needing human blood for sustenance, but the bloodlust-like craving that it comes with. Louis struggles most openly with this, but so does every single other vampire in the story. The difference is that aside from Claudia, all of the other vampires are keeping their problems unsaid.
Take Lestat for example, despite being powerful and capable. He is lonely and desperate –even willing to turn a child into a vampire if it meant a chance for Louis to stay. His presence at the very end of the film, offering vampirism to the interviewer, is as much him seeking a companion than it is the interviewer wanting power. Armand and the rest of the theater vampires are all out of places to belong and it is evident in their execution of Claudia and Madeline that they are trying to put a semblance of order and control over the lives they lead.
Old Timey Sensibilities
Much of the narrative structure in the film has been hampered by the fact that the movie tries to lampshade the fact that Louis, Lestat, and Armand are homosexual. While this would not matter as much in today’s more liberal/progressive audiences, it did during the time that the film was made and released. Many changes and omissions from the book are due to this (Louis never had a family in the book, only a brother who died).
As a movie however, Interview With a Vampire is a good film to watch. Director Neil Jordan has an amazing grasp of both cinematography and narrative pacing, and frames each scene like a standalone moment. The actors were also able to personify their roles quite well, even Tom Cruise as Lestat (despite Anne Rice initially not agreeing to the casting, Cruise’s performance managed to win her over). Vampire fans hoping for frights will have to look elsewhere though. Considering that the lead character is already a vampire, the level of suspense in the film is low –and the only major crisis that feels palpable is the lynch mob of vampires that capture Louis and the two girls.