Interview With the Vampire (1994) spins a poetic web of tales centering on the lives of vampires and the values of their existence. Based on the novel written by Anne Rice, this film has lots of theatrics, great set designs, and wonderful costumes to help engross the audience into the plot.
“I haven’t been human for 200 years”, says Louis (Brad Pitt), as he tells a story that leads from New Orleans, Louisiana in 1791 to the “mother city” of Paris, France, then back to New Orleans. Stereotypical vampire myths such as Dracula, crosses, garlic, and stakes through the heart don’t apply to these vampires who are “powerful, beautiful, and without regret.” Louis narrates the story as the interviewer, Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater) documents this incredible tales with optimistic humor at first, then obsessive awe. Slater stepped in the role after the untimely death of the original actor, River Phoenix (Slater donated his salary to one of Phoenix’s charities).
Tom Cruise takes a fulfilling acting risk playing the vampire Lestat, and it pays off big time. As in Born on the Fourth of July, this Oscar-caliber performance allows him to expand his talent even further. Pitt carries the film as the cautious Louis in a breakthrough role that shows he’s more than just an attractive face (as in his previously notable role in Thelma & Louise). The 12-year old Kirsten Dunst debuts as Claudia in a shockingly strong performance that deserved an Oscar nomination. Antonio Banderas plays Armand, the oldest living vampire who resides in Paris, France with Santiago, an almost unrecognizable Stephen Rea, and his hoard of assorted vampire associates. They run the Theatres des Vampires, an eerie theatrical production that exactly mirrors their true selves. You may also notice the beautiful Thandie Newton (Mission Impossible 2) in a small, but note worthy role as Yvette.
Director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) shoots many wide, epic-style shots of the waterfront locations in New Orleans and in the gorgeous city of Paris. Jordan keeps the frame flowing with the dark, passionate world of the vampire. Stan Winston (Jurassic Park, T2) creates the amazing special effects which add to the vampires’ mystique and appeal to the audience. The film has several continuity problems, like a twice opened shirt and some “sticky scissor fingers”, which effect the editing and some scene transitions, but are not very noticeable.
The “vampire movie” genre reaches a new, elevated level with this successful film. The plot grabs your attention and the intense action grabs your senses. This film entertains and shocks while the screenplay, based on Rice’s book and partially written by her, holds the film together well. The ambiguous ending leaves the door open for further movies based on Rice’s books.
© Michael Siebenaler