The International Writers Magazine
:Book v Film

'Interview with the Vampire' by Anne Rice
Neil Jordan Director from Anne Rice's screenplay (1994)
ISBN- 0708860737

Amy Barlow

Drink my blood and you will live forever

nne Rice's creation offers an enchanting glance into a world where the immortal vampire is God. Where hot blood is savoured for the glimpse of life given to the vampire when the dying heart beats in time with their own.

The novel is the first of her vampire chronicles and begins in a stark room when interviewer Daniel presses record. He listens to the story of Louis, a romantic vampire who was given the dark gift almost three centuries ago by the charismatic and careless Lestat. From that moment the reader is plunged into the dark truth behind their immortal life. Through a series of flashbacks narrated by Louis we explore the depths of his mind as he struggles with his guilt for killing and his need to find another immortal soul to share his torment with. 'Interview with the Vampire' refreshingly moves away from the Dracula stereotype with an original insight into what goes on behind the fangs and cold stare. This is Dracula on speed, filled with enough energy and emotional torment to power a mobile blood bank.

The story adapted to screenplay by the author Anne Rice retains the dark plot and melancholy tone of the novel first published in 1976. Witty and elegant exchanges between characters are brought to life by the captivating direction of Neil Jordan. The thrilling plot is set in New Orleans and Paris around the 1700's and an accurate portrayal of this was key for the movie's success. Their skillful attention to historical detail is a tribute to producers who won a BAFTA for best production. A gothic setting in the film reflects the dark mood and inner struggles of the vampires as the story unfolds.

Rice's eerie descriptions and effortless poetic style make for compulsive reading; the depth of the story carried perfectly by the characters and their relationships, seen through the powerful narration of Louis. Rice has humanised the Vampires and obviously wants us to like them despite all the ruthless bloodsucking. The strong contrast between the passionate Lestat (Cruise) and guilt ridden Louis (Pitt) is engaging and equally effective in both book and film. We see how, despite their physical strength and beauty both vampires completely rely on each other emotionally. They are outcasts needing the unconditional love that can only be found in another equally damned in his existence. In the film Brad Pitt seems perfectly cast as Louis and with his flawless features and hopelessness he is mesmorising to watch. Cruise however, is seemingly mis-cast, an opinion shared by Anne Rice who publicly protested to him in the role prior to filming. Lestat in the novel is paralysingly beautiful with a quick wit to match, although physically transformed Cruise looks uncomfortable and at times struggles to carry the charisma needed from Lestat.

Along side the two Hollywood golden boys are the acting talents of Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea and Christian Slater. A brilliant performance from a young Kirsten Dunst also helps to make the movie. We see her as the vampire child eternally trapped in a small girls body. She wishes only to grow up and struggles with feeling both resentment and love for her fathers. The depth given to the central characters pulls 'Interview with the Vampire' above the simplicity and predictability of the horror genre. Although gruesome in parts the underlying themes of unacceptance, love and guilt overshadow any notion of this being just another horror movie.

An aspect sadly played down in the film is the sexuality of the vampires and the intimate ecstasy that they get from drinking blood. Anne Rice describes this in the novel using subtle sexual undertones - "The blood flowed, and once that happened, once I was locked to it drinking...all else vanished". There is also the hint of paedophilia between Claudia and Louis as they share a coffin and she calls him her lover. Again this is clear in the novel but glossed over in the film. I think that the film holds less impact because of this, it lacks an important part of what makes this different approach to the vampire story work.

The allure of a grand Hollywood ending must have been far too tempting and we see Lestat return cringe-inducingly to bite the interviewer (Christian Slater) as he flees. This is the strongest deviation from the book which leaves Daniel going in search of Louis begging to be made immortal. The film ending leaves a bitter taste with corny lines and the classic cliché of the evil laugh from Cruise as he drives Daniel to meet his fate. Although seemingly unjustified, it is clear that the novels ending wasn't screen friendly. However, there must have been a better way. It was perhaps Neil Jordans influence on the film that affected this as he worked with Anne Rice to adapt her original screenplay, which was at first deemed un-usable. It's not all bad, as parts of the novel were improved by the adaptation process. At one point Lestat (Cruise) dances around the room with Claudia's (Dunst) mothers' rotten corpse, saying "There's life in the old girl yet", an event slightly lost in the book but brilliantly brought to life in the film.

So has the adaptation from page to screen done justice to the imagination of the author? There is always something to be gained from bringing the story to life and the films' attention to detail where the characters are concerned is a pleasure to watch. The screenplay benefits by pulling dialogue directly from the book and so retains the quick wit and excitement of her writing. It is also refreshing to be free from the popular theme of the vampire slayer brought to fame by Buffy and the many slaying blockbusters Hollywood has churned out. Overall I think it does justice to the novel, capturing the originality that moves away from the gruesome vampire image and into an intimate exploration of emotion.

© Amy Barlow Nov 2005

Amy is a Creative Writing Major at the University of Portsmouth


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