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Jordan brings Rice's novel to stunning life

Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

Before watching Interview With The Vampire, there was a short message from novelist Anne Rice. She claimed that her book was about us, about humankind. But is the film about that? I don't know. If it is, I think the meaning got lost in the translation. On the other hand, perhaps the meaning is hidden in the visual style and direction. However, this film doesn't need a meaning because it is very fun to watch, and very interesting as it puts a major twist to all the vampire folklore that we have all heard about. I'm not saying that this film is original, but it's nice to see a vampire film that doesn't use gore and action as the basis for the plot.

One of my favorite vampire films is Bram Stoker's Dracula which had stunning visuals, but the direction was lacking something, namely coherency. The film seemed more like several different plots happening at different times, instead of one entire plot with small subplots. This is what makes Interview With The Vampire better than most vampire films. Not only does it use an impressive set design and cinematography, it mixes wild special effects and a terrific story. And to top it all off, great acting and nice directing by Neil Jordan. What surprised me most about this film, though, was its sense of humor, using some humorous dialogue from Anne Rice, along with some good casting choices to enhance the comedic parts of the novel. Normally, I don't really think comedy would mix in well with a vampire film (except for maybe Dracula: Dead and Loving It), but leave it to Rice to go and do just that.

The film begins with exactly what the title suggests: an interview with a vampire. The vampire is named Louis (Brad Pitt) and the interviewer (Christian Slater) doesn't quite know what he has gotten himself into. He is about to get involved in a story, just as we are, about death, birth, eternal life, and vampires. Louis begins to tell the story of how he came to be a vampire and his adventures before and after. We don't learn much of his previous years, except that his wife and child died, pushing Louis to drinking and suicidal thoughts. One day, he comes upon a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise). Lestat seems attracted to Louis, both physically and... well, physically. He bites Louis on the neck and almost seductively lifts him into the air while drinking his blood. Lestat tells him that he will give him a choice on whether or not to become a vampire. After getting one more look at the sunset, he decides that he is better off becoming one.

Louis and Lestat become partners, and Lestat begins to teach his new friend about the powers of vampires, as well as the myths. Anne Rice's twist to vampire folklore was one of the best and most intriguing elements of the film, and unfortunately, all of it is said and done with in about ten minutes. Learning that vampires can withstand crucifixes and stakes through the hearts was interesting, and learning the secret of vampires' yearn for blood was quite unique. Realizing it is all fiction, it is very entertaining, and maintains a level of believability that most vampire films never even try to reach. But thankfully the film also has a level of intelligence, also not found in many vampire flicks. The plot moves along at a steady and slow pace, maintaining the mood of the film. And using that intelligence from Rice, we see a side of vampirism that we have never seen before (or I have never seen before, but I haven't seen Nosferatu yet). Rice shows Louis' new lifestyle as a curse and a state of depression, rather than an enjoyable one. Louis must deal with a very interesting paradox: all his life he has been taught to respect human life, and all of a sudden he is forced into taking it just to stay alive himself. I was enthralled in this original aspect of the vampire, and to the credit of the filmmakers, they decided to focus on this more than anything else.

While the erotic partnership of Louis and Lestat was interesting, the relationship never really seemed enticing, until the appearance of the central character that held the two together: Claudia (Kirsten Duntz). Claudia becomes a vampire herself after Louis bites her, and Lestat gives her a new life. The humor begins appearing subtley as the two adoptive parents begin taking care of Claudia. Louis and Lestat find that teaching the child about her new life has its advantages, and its disadvantages. Unfortunately, the film begins to wander and it almost loses the attention of the audience, were it not for the wonderful visual style and terrific performance from Duntz.

The performances are what make this film one of the best vampire films out there. Brad Pitt has the biggest role, and also has the toughest job, and he handles it extremely well. His troubled concious is brought to life through Pitt's portrayal and not many other actors can show these emotions accurately. Tom Cruise... well, he's Tom Cruise, except that you can't tell it is him. He gives a very good performance, and while he may be cast higher than Pitt, his role requires him to mainly play the piano, and tell his pupils what and what not to do. Kristen Duntz, as I said, gives an outstanding and scene stealing performance. For her young age, she is better than many adult actors around. I can't really describe her performance, but it is completely worth paying the money to watch the film. Antonio Banderas and Stephen Rea both give short, but good performance. But watch for Duntz there to steal the spotlight away from all her male co-stars.

The power of the performances are all capable of shadowing all the technical aspects of the film, but the gore and violence are quite shocking. The visual style is wonderfully dark and moody, which provides the background for the bloody happenings. The pace is slow and characteristically shows the long period of time that Louis must fight with his mind and body. The sets are stunning and should have gotten the Academy Award. The special effects are quite subtle and usually unnoticeable but very effective. The direction is wonderful and very easy to follow, and the writing is wonderfully adapted from Rice's novel. Rice has adapted her novel into a very nice atmospheric film with witty and funny dialogue and good performances.

Interview With The Vampire is rated R for vampire violence and gore (some of which is rather shocking and gruesome, although it pales in comparison to others of the same genre). It also contains a lot of nudity, all of which is unneccesary and distracts from the pace and tone of the rest of the film. There is some language and the overall tone is dark enough to warrant the R rating. With a nice soundtrack to enhance the mood, Interview is a film about atmosphere, but also is smart enough to contain characters we care about and a screenplay that brings Rice's novel to stunning life. It's nice to see a vampire film that doesn't subject the viewers to unneccesary action or corny dialogue.

***1/2 out of ****

Reviews by Boyd Petrie
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