Interview with the Vampire details one vampire’s reflective story of loss, guilt, and solitude. This paper looks at the immortal state of loneliness and why people find it so attractive to be a vampire. This film is based on Ann Rice’s novel and recounts the life of an over two hundred year old vampire living in present day. Although I’ve read mixed reviews about this film, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s the naturally alluring, captivating force that draws all people to the vampires. They represent power, sexuality, and charisma. Anne Rice, the writer of Interview with the Vampire says, “I think the vampire is a romantic, enthralling image… We long to be one of them and the idea of being sacrificed to them becomes rather romantic.” (Ramsland) I think that the idea of being a creature of the night with supernatural powers is the romantic idea.
Other than the impact that Interview with the Vampire has had on the alternative gothic and vampiric cultures, some dominant themes stand out after a viewing: repeat fires, superstition, violence, humanity and the evilness of a vampire. Whether it is Louis (Pitt) and Lestat (Cruise) leaving New Orleans, Louis and Claudia (Dunst) fleeing England, or Louis leaving the theatre in Paris: Louis is always setting a dramatic fire for a quick and evidence-free escape.
Another theme is the superstition of the people, whether it’s past-times or the present. In 1791 in New Orleans, Louis’s slaves are dancing around a huge bonfire with masks and dead chickens, trying to get rid of the evil spirits that have killed all the chickens and a man. The slaves believe that it’s Lestat that has brought this evil to the plantation. The one house servant pleads with Louis to send his guest (Lestat) away. At the end of Louis’s story in present day, Daniel Molly (Slater), the journalist interviewing Louis, overlooks his message of loss and immortal solitude and exclaims that he wants to be a vampire. Louis responds “then you must not have been listening to my story.”
The seductive, powerful image is what draws people to them. Mortals (humans) at the theatre in Paris are completely taken by the show Armand (Banderas) directs: a young woman is stripped and killed on stage by vampires. A lady in the audience exclaims out loud that she would even take the young women’s place, thinking it is just a play and not really a woman that’s died. “Please, monsieur, I love your work!” Louis laughingly says while watching “Vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.” Claudia responds “How avant-garde!” This play itself is avant-garde, and the play would be in that time in Paris very forward and “pushing the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm.” (Avant-garde) Why is this sexuality and violence not rejected by people, but embraced? One critic in the Ethical Spectacle comments, “In such stories, our darkest fantasies can be freely and veristically portrayed in ways that would have been too frightening [or unacceptable] in a more realistic story.” (Interview with the Vampire is the real Pornography) I think that people join the vampire sub-culture because they want to be like that image- powerful, seductive, and alluring. The ‘dark side’ is different, non-conformant, and rebels against the preset values of society.
People today go so far as to drinking blood, avoiding sunlight, and sleeping in coffins. Stephen Kaplan of the Vampire Research Center has been conducting surveys since 1972. He places vampires into three categories:
1. “fetishists erotically attracted to blood”
2. “vampire imitators who adopt vampire trappings in search of domination, immortality, sensuality, charisma”
3. “true vampires”
By his system, Kaplan admits that there are at least fifty reported vampires in the United States. (Ramsland) However, there are rare diseases that would explain some of the physical symptoms of vampirism. These people could have been ill with catalepsy or porphyria. Without proper instruments or knowledge to diagnose properly, these individuals would even be buried alive. Catalepsy causes the body to stiffen and the respiration and heart rate to slow considerably. Even more probable an explanation, “porphyria is a rare disease characterized by irregularities in production of heme, an iron-rich pigment in blood.” They are “highly sensitive to sunlight” and a cure “might have been to drink blood, to correct the imbalance in the body.” (How Vampires Work)
One thing I can’t help but notice is that most of the victims are females. “No woman being murdered kicks a vampire, screams very loudly, draws a knife to defend herself, or even attempts to run away… they are strangely passive, magnetically drawn…” (Interview with the Vampire is the Real Pornography) Further, most of the victims are cheap prostitutes. I do agree, none of the victims ever tried to get away, but I doubt that the point of the film is to degrade women as the critic explains in their review. The author is a female, and why would she want to degrade her gender? The prey seems to be entranced by the feeding and enjoy the sensation in some sexual way. Lestat loves to play with his food, and as Rice says, “He’s determined to be good at being bad.” A memorable scene occurs in New Orleans between Lestat and a prostitute (who is inside the coffin):
Lestat: “What’s wrong, my dear?”
Whore: “It’s a coffin…”
Lestat: “Yes, it is. Well, then you must be dead.”
He just loves to joke and tease while carrying out their way of life. And also, I was surprised every time that Lestat came back from the dead. He just can’t die; the movie alludes that this is how he has survived most of his life. And its how a lot of vampires survive.
These modern vampires portrayed are not blatantly evil. Louis feels more remorse for the creature he is than any other. Lestat says, “Evil is a point of view. God kills indiscriminately and so shall we. For no creatures under God are as we are, none so like him as ourselves.”
Do vampires have humanity? One thing debated in this film is the humanity of a vampire. Refusing to feed on humans, Louis maintains his humanity until he creates another vampire late in the film. He feels guilt for killing people and for his vampire nature. He prefers to feed on rats and chickens over humans. Claudia asks Louis, “Rats? When did you eat rats Louis?” “It was a long, long time ago. Before you were born [embraced], and I don’t recommend them.”
A vampire’s life is not as glamorous as the humans believe it to be. All the vampires are lonely creatures by nature. Lestat creates Louis as a companion. Claudia is made to be Louis’s companion. But Louis is the loneliest of all and he carries his loss with him. Interview with the Vampire is a romanticized representation of the inner-self of a vampire. This steady point of view allows a view of the darkness surrounding vampires since the 1700s to the present.
Harris, Tom. “How Vampires Work.”
Howstuffworks. 3 December 2005
“Interview with the Vampire”. Screenplay by Anne Rice. Dir. Neil Jordan. Perf. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater. 1994. DVD. Burbank, Calif.: Geffen Pictures.
“Interview with the Vampire”.
Wikipedia. 2 December 2005
“Interview with the Vampire is the Real Pornography”.
The Ethical Spectacle. May 1995. 2 December 2005
Ramsland, Katherine. “Hunger for the Marvelous: The Vampire Craze in the Computer Age”.
Psychology Today. 3 December 2005