Thoughts on Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Vampire films are inevitably an allegory for something or other, and Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) (which is told through an interview with a vampire), which Jordan wrote uncredited based on Anne Rice’s book and first draft, is no exception. Tom Cruise of all people plays the vampire Lestat, who turns Louis (Brad Pitt) out of loneliness, and saves the “life” of Claudia (an outstanding eleven-year-old Kirsten Dunst) by turning her as well—she becomes the daughter of the two men’s subtextual marriage. Strangely, Claudia’s also the only character with whom we can fully identify.

It’s hard to identify with Louis, who’s perpetually moping, or the plainly psychotic Lestat, whereas Claudia’s petulance at never being able to grow up, sort of like an anti-Peter Pan, is fully understandable. She’s a child, so her lack of moral boundaries makes sense—a connection drawn by Charles Bramesco in his book on vampire movies (titled Vampire Movies), albeit regarding another film.

This reading is the key to understanding Lestat and Louis, too. Amy Nicholson, in her phenomenal book on the career of Tom Cruise (titled Tom Cruise), observes that Lestat is motivated by love for Louis and the desire to see him happy; of course this is a controlling love, bound to fail, given Louis’s refusal of happiness even before being turned. Lestat merely takes the “I’d do anything for you” romantic trope to vampiric lengths of murder and bloodplay, and what we see as psychopathy is completely natural for a vampire. After all, what qualms could vampires have about killing mortals when natural death no longer applies to them? Indeed, the only two rules we see in the film—don’t kill vampires (more than death, they fear the loss of immortality that defines vampire-ness) and don’t turn kids (quality of vampire life)—both speak to vampire existence. The lack of fellow vampires in sufficient numbers to compel consideration of their needs—in other words, the lack of empathy—is precisely what blinds Lestat to the limitations of a controlling love, even after three tries (he turned two others before Louis).

Louis, however, who at one point sarcastically (and morosely) asks Lestat to “forgive [him] for having a lingering respect for life,” still has qualms because he still has a sense of death: namely, that of his wife and daughter, the source of his continuing grief. Death keeps him human, fangs be damned.

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