[This review includes spoilers.]
Lestat: "God kills indiscriminately. And so shall we."
I was a huge fan of Anne Rice's vampire books back in the day, and when this movie was released, I expected the worst. I was wrong. Interview is an excellent adaptation of Anne Rice's novel. Everything I loved in the book is also in the movie.
A vampire with a soul
Louis (Brad Pitt) is a young widower who longs for death. I've always loved the early scene when he actually opens his shirt to his attacker; it's a perfect character moment. Louis cannot accept what he becomes, and is eternally tormented by his own nature... although it's interesting that he is outright suicidal as a human, but not as a vampire, when all he would have to do to end it all is walk outside during daylight. Louis wants vampire life to be elevated, intellectual. He doesn't want to be a killer or a monster. He wants to find meaning in love, and he cannot love Lestat.
This is Brad Pitt's movie. Louis in the books is a tortured soul who is so physically and emotionally beautiful that everyone wants him. Brad Pitt manages to do this in every frame of this movie. In my opinion, he nailed it.
A vampire with an attitude
Lestat is my favorite vampire in literature. In this movie, he appears to love what he is; he even literally dances with death. And yet, he says more than once that he was turned against his will, implying that it is something he never would have chosen. We also get hints throughout that Louis's story is slanted. It's tantalizing.
Tom Cruise is never my first choice for any role, especially that of a character I love as much as I love Lestat. But he did acquit himself well. (Except for his appalling French pronunciation. Seriously, Tom. Mon dew? Chewrie?) I've always assumed that Tom Cruise was cast as Lestat because of the sequels we didn't get. Interview is about Louis, but Lestat is the main character of the following few books.
(And that was a smart choice by Rice, by the way. There is so much more to Lestat than what Louis sees; it's just too bad that we never got to see it on the screen. The Queen of the Damned sequel didn't star Cruise, and didn't do the books justice.)
Why is Lestat so obsessed with Louis? Clearly, even a vampire so in tune with his predatory nature needs love and companionship. Rice's vampires are androgynous, seductive, romantically possessive even though they don't have sex. The eroticism is centered around drinking blood. All they care about is blood, and each other.
A vampire who will never grow up
Lestat creates Claudia to save his "marriage" to Louis, just like a troubled couple having a baby for the wrong reasons. Louis and Claudia are almost like Lestat's abused wife and battered child. Claudia becomes a parody of her human self, victimizing humans by acting like a lost, helpless child; she and Lestat kill together, again as a parody of a real family, like a father taking his son out hunting in the woods.
Kirsten Dunst, only eleven years old at the time, did exceptional work as Claudia, who was only five in the book. It's doubtful that any actress young enough to pass for five could pull off a character as complicated and adult as Claudia. It was smart of Neil Jordan to make Claudia a little older in order to cast the perfect actress.
Interview was Anne Rice's first book, and arguably her best. Interestingly, and tragically, it was written after the death of her five year old daughter from leukemia. When this correlation was pointed out to her, Rice was reportedly surprised, and said it wasn't intentional.
A vampire movie with depth
The story and the characters are special, but that's not all. Neil Jordan created such a beautiful movie. The actors, the dialogue, the plantation, Paris, the costumes and make-up -- it's just stunning. And the symbolism is marvelous. The flight into the air as Louis ascends into godhood. The dead crawfish on the floor. The sex-as-death scene with the two prostitutes and the coffin. Claudia's dolls. Louis' obsession with sunrise.
I always liked the first part of the movie more than the second. I'm all about the twisted family life. The European adventure and the Theatre des Vampires always loses me a bit. I tend to skip ahead emotionally to Louis' rampage in the crypt, which is also beautifully filmed. It is Louis facing the loss of Claudia head-on, and finally accepting himself as the vampire he is.
Bits and pieces
-- The best lines from the book were also in the movie. Not a surprise, since Anne Rice also wrote the screenplay.
-- When someone becomes an Anne Rice vamp, they immediately become gorgeous. Like the super immortal hair styling for Claudia. Only better, because it lasts forever.
-- Lestat can read minds, but Louis cannot. The gift varies.
-- Lestat's irritation with Louis's despair becomes quite funny. ("Still whining, Louis!")
-- River Phoenix was originally cast as the interviewer. After his untimely death at the age of 23, Christian Slater took over the part.
-- There's only one thing about this movie that I don't like, and that's Antonio Banderas' immense head of black hair. What were they thinking? Armand in the movie is also nothing like Armand in the books. I like Antonio Banderas, but this was disappointing.
Lestat: "Evildoers are easier. And they taste better." This is interesting. Because aren't criminals who are always aware of evil intentions harder to kill? Why would they be easier? This is a major clue that Lestat isn't as evil as Louis sees him.
Lestat: "They all go to heaven."
Louis: "All but us."
Lestat: "Claudia! What have we told you?"
Claudia: (chastened) "Never in the house."
Louis: "Vampires pretending to be human pretending to be vampires."
Claudia: "How avant-garde."
There are several television series about vampires that I love, but Interview is the only vampire movie I've seen numerous times. Four out of four rats and poodles,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.