As I write this review I reflect on the imagery and dialogue choices within the film, how they talk about the two lives – one before and one after. This is of particular note to me as the year I was born was the year the original novel by Anne Rice was released. As with most children the year they graduate high school is the year their new, second life begins; and that is the year that the film was released the oh so lovely 1994. This movie changed the face of modern vampire films as much as Dracula did back in 1931. It goes in waves, we are delivered the monstrous vampire (Nosferatu) then the romantic bloodsucker as Lugosi did. The 80s and early nineties vampire films were a turn from the 70s sexploitation and had become the rebellious monster (Lost Boys). We once again as a lover of the things with fangs, yearned to be seduced again, yearned to be romanced.
Along comes Interview with a Vampire.
The screenplay for the film was written by Anne Rice herself, so any changes to the story she had written eighteen years before can be forgiven as she had evolved as a writer over those years and had fallen in love with her personal demon Lestat. This is the story of Louis, a southern plantation owner begging for death. Death comes in the form of Lestate deLioncourt, who gleefully offers him death or…something more. The film centers around Louis coming to terms with his own existence and what it means to be a vampire. The introduction of a vampiric daughter, Claudia, the betrayal of his own dark father, his journey to find more of his kind are highlights of a rather large scale story told in a personal way. Louis pain reaches new heights as he finally comes to term with his own vampirism but that awareness has such sweet suffering. All of it based around the concept that he is giving the story to a small time journalist and this is the biography he has wanted to get off of his chest.
The director Neil Jordan, best known for The Crying Game, could probably call this his masterpiece. Nearly every decision made and performance reached is on him. The movie is staggering in the amount of sheer gothic visual imagery it contains. Even the musical cues are powerful throughout. The key performances are nuanced and executed well, which falls on a director as much as any actor. It also proves that yes, with the right director a child actor can perform to the caliber of her adult co stars. Please take note M. Night Shamalama-ding-dong.
Lets talk about the actors a bit. When first announced, as a fan of the books, I was incensed at the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat. Anne Rice herself was less than pleased. When I saw the movie however, he did play one facet of the magnificent bastard that Lestat is. He played it well. I think Townsends’ Lestat is better, but Cruise did a remarkable job. The role of Lestat was a huge departure from his usual A list roles and mainstream films. Others still pan him to this day, but the reality is he did a really good job at playing the Lestat as written in the novel on screen.
Brat Pitt (no I am not going to list his credits, if you dont know who he is, check your pulse), plays our main character Louis. Lets be fair, I don’t like Louis as a vampire or a human. I suppose thats what makes Pitts performance so outstanding is that he at least can make you put up with him for two hours. He covers the range of emotions well, but more importantly understands the changes happening to Louis as the decades become centuries. There is a subtle, but noticable shift in the character that Pitt executes on perfectly.
Both Pitt and Cruise however are upstaged by fledgling actress and twelve year old Kristen Dunst. She played the aforementioned dark daughter Claudia. She is a very naughty girl. she actually seems to force both actors to elevate their own performance. She handles the lines she is given and the physical cues she must perform like someone twice her age, if not three times her age. while if you look at her actual age to the age of the actors she plays against some of those dialogues and motions are far more uncomfortable. When you examine the fact that she is playing a fourty year old in the body of a twelve year old it really shows the ability of the actress and makes the scenes that much more powerful.
From a technical standpoint the film is again nearly flawless. The CGI minimal and what there is of it is difficult to notice in all but a handful of shots. The make up work is amazing and holds up twenty years later. The sets, costuming and lighting were spot on through out the film.
This isnt to say its a perfect film. There are some casting choices that bother me to this day even more than Cruise did at the time. Such as the casting of Antonio Banderas as a cherub faced red head with curls named Armand. I will leave you with that character to actor description for a bit. The technicalities of Claudia’s fate defy astronomy as they could only occur a few days a year.
For the TL;DR crowd
It is one of the best vampire films ever made; while it leans more to the dramatic than the horrific it is an honest vampire movie. It isn’t flawless but it is close. It’s drama however does tend to limit it’s rewatch value to a once a year kinda deal. The performances are amazing and that alone is a reason to watch. Again any changes from the source are tacitly approved by the author, which while not always a good thing, needs to be kept in mind for those who would compare novel to screen.
Interview with a Vampire is a must see for anyone at least once.
Tomorrow’s review doesn’t want to end up like Nancy