I must be on a vampire kick this weekend, because when I logged into Netflix tonight and saw this movie in my recommendations, I couldn't resist. Tonight's film is the 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice's novel , Interview with the Vampire.
The film opens in a hotel room in New Orleans, where a young man is interviewing a gentleman named Louis who claims to be a vampire. After a brief display of Louis' preternatural abilities, the interviewer starts the tape and Louis begins his tale. Louis was a plantation owner in Louisiana when his wife and newborn child died in 1791. Seeking death, Louis engages in a series of self-destructive behaviors, attracting the attention of a vampire named Lestat. Lestat offers Louis "the choice he never had," and when Louis accepts, makes him a vampire. To Lestat's chagrin, Louis clings to his humanity and refuses to feed upon the living, instead quenching his thirst for blood on rats and dogs. When Louis, in a fit of depression, wanders into a plague-ridden district of New Orleans, he gives in to his hunger and feeds upon an young orphan named Claudia. Lestat rejoices, but Louis flees the scene, ashamed. Lestat rescues the girl and turns her in an effort to bring Louis around, and the two men raise the young vampire as their own for thirty years. When Claudia grows tired of Louis' and Lestat's treatment and realizes she will never mature physically, she rebels and tricks Lestat in an attempt to kill him, but her plot ultimately fails. After a fiery "final confrontation with their maker, Louis and Claudia travel to the Old World in search of others like them. When they finally find other immortals in Paris, their lives take a turn for the worse.
Regardless of your feelings about Tom Cruise, one can't deny that he was born to play the role of the snobbish Lestat de Lioncourt. Even Anne Rice herself initially objected to the casting, but eventually came around once she viewed his performance. Whether he's portraying Lestat in his prime or at the immortal Brat Prince's most desperate, withered state, Cruise's performance is masterful. It's truly a shame that he wasn't tapped to reprise the role again for 2002's dismal follow-up/reboot Queen of the Damned.
It's been several years since I last watched the movie, and I was surprised at just how unsettling Cruise's Lestat was following Claudia's attempted murder of him. Stan Winston really outdid himself with all stages of Lestat's makeup. When we see the vampire's body submerged in the bayou, it's hard to imagine that thing could ever return, but return he does, and when the decaying Lestat sits down at the piano in Claudia's and Louis' residence, I still get chills.
While I'm sure what I'm about to say will mark me as a heretic in the eyes of Anne Rice fans everywhere, I'm going to say it anyway. One thing that this film does better than the novels is the vampire Armand. Antonio Banderas delivers a masterful, seductive performance. I may be straight, but even I have to admit that Armand gives me tingles, and that's perfect, because a vampire's powers of seduction should transcend sexuality. But beyond that, Banderas' Armand is believable as an immortal. His speech about knowing nothing of any Heaven or Hell is one of my favorite moments in the entire movie.
We also mustn't forget about Brad Pitt. Pitt plays the eponymous vampire, Louis. Pitt's portrayal of Louis is the prototypical emo vampire. But whether he is wallowing in his own self pity or relishing in his life of bloodletting decadence, Pitt's performance is both impressive and immersive. For me, however, Pitt's finest moment comes in the film's fiery climax when he sneaks into the catacombs beneath the Théâtre des Vampires in Paris and systematically wipes out the entire Paris vampire coven. After Claudia is executed by the coven, we see a significant change come over Louis, his eyes burning with a preternatural hatred.
Since the film's release, Pitt has stated that he was miserable during the film's production, and he even tried to buy his way out of his contract, due to how depressed the night shoots made him and the differences between the film and novel versions of his character. While I'm saddened to hear that he didn't enjoy the production, and that he's dissatisfied with the finished product, I'm glad he saw it through, because I cannot envision any other actor playing the part of Louis de Pointe du Lac, and I'm glad that the part was not recast for Queen of the Damned.
Let's talk a moment about the soundtrack, because one of the most integral parts of any film is its music. Interview's score was composed by Elliot Goldenthal. Goldenthal's score is absolutely haunting with its use of choirs and violins. Goldenthal composed two of my all-time favorite film scores, this one and Alien 3, and both scores share similarities, particularly in their use of the choir. And of course, let's not forget about the ending song, Sympathy for the Devil, performed by Guns N' Roses. At first glance, GNR seems like a rather odd choice for a movie that is, for the most part, a period film set in the 17 and 1800s, but like Lestat at the close of the film, it brings us into the present.
My verdict should come as no surprise. Interview with the Vampire is a masterpiece, and an essential contribution to vampire mythology in film. If you've never seen it, I must strongly urge you to do so.