'Interview With the Vampire' Was Actually About the Horrors of Domestic Life
Interview with the Vampire was a 1994 gothic horror film directed by Neil Jordan. And to be perfectly honest? It's the only film I can stand Tom Cruise in. It has also been one of my favorite films for years now. I'm still asking myself what that says about me, but eh.
The film actually got me into reading the books by Anne Rice, which I probably never would have picked up otherwise. Aside from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the occasional Daphne du Maurier book, and R.L. Stine's Goosebumps when I was a kid, I was never much into horror books. My personal library consisted mostly of high fantasy classics written by such authors as Marion Zimmer Bradley or Mercedes Lackey. Anne Rice was entirely new territory for me, but I read Interview with the Vampire and loved it so much that I read many of the other vampire chronicles books that followed it.
Around the year 2012, Anne Rice confirmed that Louis and Lestat were a same-sex couple raising a child. I was surprised that it even needed to be confirmed. Anyone who read the books knew that Lestat swung both ways and that Louis was probably not straight.
It was always fairly obvious to me that these two were a couple sort of stuck together in their own private hell, who made the unfortunate but common mistake of thinking that having a child would magically fix everything.
The Characters Were A Reflection
I was a teenager when I got into Anne Rice's vampire chronicles, and because I admired her so much as a writer, I looked into her life. Turned out she was married to a blonde man who very much reminded me of Lestat, while she had lost a daughter at a very young age (Claudia) and herself had a lot in common with Louis.
I thought it was pretty obvious that she was using the book Interview with the Vampire to grieve what had happened to her family, one reason the book was widely considered "depressing" and "whiny" by fans who didn't know the real-life story behind the narrative's melancholy.
I actually heard that it offended Anne Rice anytime people suggested such a thing, but a lot of writers (myself included) subconsciously self-insert into their work. Anne Rice loved historical New Orleans and imagined herself, her husband, and her lost child living there forever. Whether she realized it or not.
I thought it was beautiful and made me empathize with her as a human being who was suffering. It also made it pretty obvious to me that Louis, Lestat, and Claudia were the story of a domestic life gone horribly wrong in that the child of the family . . . had died.
Before they had a child, Louis and Lestat had a life together.
In the books, Lestat (Tom Cruise) was in love with his friend Nicolas -- or at least, that was implied. When Nicolas went crazy after receiving "the dark gift," Lestat left for the Americas to find a new love.
He found Louis (Brad Pitt), someone who was dark-haired, beautiful. intellectual and just as miserable as he. Louis being miserable made him easy prey. All Lestat had to do was walk up and offer him eternal life -- while looking damn sexy as he did it.
Louis accepts the marriage proposal, but like all people who randomly elope with strangers, he learns the hard way that letting strange men kiss his neck might result in misery.
He and Lestat become a bitter couple, constantly arguing back and forth. It seems that no matter what Lestat does, he can't make Louis happy.
It's actually pretty sweet when you think about it: Lestat just wants to make Louis happy. But Louis regrets the "marriage" and sits around sulking and refuses to be anything but.
The miserable state of their relationship is only further underscored in the book when Lestat has his elderly father come to live with them. Louis is kind to the old man -- his "father in law" -- but Lestat has good reason to be bitter and treats his blind father abhorrently.
Because Lestat refuses to share the details of his mysterious past, Louis slowly comes to view him as a horrible monster who refuses to share knowledge, abuses his elderly father, and enjoys terrorizing mortals because he is bitter about his cursed immortality.
The audience is purposely kept wondering whether or not Lestat is actually evil. We see Louis trying to protect innocent mortals from him throughout both the book and the film, and it frames Lestat in a really bad light, leaving us to believe that he is, in fact, a typical monstrous vampire.
But for anyone who pays attention to the film, there is evidence throughout that Lestat is actually a pretty decent vampire, all things considered. He terrorized mortals for fun, true, but because Louis lacks the vampiric ability to read minds -- and because the story is told from Louis' singular perspective -- we have no idea if the people Lestat hunts are really "innocent."
In one scene, we see Lestat hunting a frail old woman -- which immediately makes him look pretty horrible. Then it's revealed that the old woman is actually a murderer who framed one of her slaves for the deed. So not so sweet and innocent after all.
In said scene, Lestat teaches Louis to focus on killing "evil doers," a fact which directly contradicts Louis' bitter and biased perspective regarding Lestat's "evil."
This is what makes Louis and Lestat mirror images of each other. Lestat was forced to become a vampire when he was quite young and had hardly lived. Instead of moping about it, he found a way to adapt by focusing on killing evil doers, getting rich, and living the high life.
Louis, meanwhile, does the exact opposite. He was given a pretty clear choice in the matter, and yet whines about the choice he made instead of owning up to it.
Yes, Lestat drained Louis and made him sick, which was a sort of blackmail. But Louis could have easily recovered. He made the choice to become a vampire.
Afterwards, he is burdened with terrible guilt for having chosen to become a creature that must kill to survive. He doesn't want to hurt anyone, not even "evil doers." He constantly judges and criticizes Lestat, but in reality, he commits more acts of evil than Lestat does in the entire film, while also throwing away their wealth and livelihood by setting fire to his own estate in a ridiculous tantrum.
After berating Lestat for being "evil," Louis kills his innocent slave, Yvette (Thandie Newton) which causes the other slaves to gather outside the house (that part made no sense, but whatever).
Louis then sets the plantation on fire in an attempt to kill himself. It's silly because he had to know Lestat would come and rescue him, that they would just move to another place and that his nightmare would continue.
In trying to burn down the plantation, Louis made a feeble and childish attempt to run from the consequences of his actions.
Lestat tries to coax him into just dealing with being a vampire. It doesn't work. And instead, Louis goes wandering.
Signing The Adoption Papers
Eventually, Louis finds Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) and pretty much kills her. He drains her to the point of death and leaves her for dead.
It's basically what Lestat did to him, and what he so deeply resents Lestat for. It positions him as a the ultimate hypocrite, forever punishing Lestat for his own mistakes.
In a last desperate attempt to make Louis happy, Lestat finds Claudia and turns her into a vampire. The only alternative is to let her die -- which probably would have been the morally correct thing to do, given the rest of the film.
The three of them live in domestic bliss for fifty years.
Because he now has Claudia, Louis straightens up, accepts the choices he made in life, stops despairing and torturing himself. He hunts mortals, sleeps in his coffin, and daily combs his hair.
Lestat, meanwhile, relishes in having someone who is willing to learn, someone who respects him and listens to him, never judges him, enjoys hunting with him -- rather than constantly bickering and arguing.
There's a scene in the book where they have to order Claudia a little coffin because "the day came when she wanted one of her own." But still, she would always crawl inside with Louis.
Claudia is portrayed as an innocent monster, feeding ravenously on her servants and tutors alike. She has no qualms about it because it is the only way of life she has ever known.
Until one day it isn't enough.
Though Claudia has been trapped in a child's body for fifty years, she almost seems like a defiant teenager after discovering that not only is she never going to grow up, but Louis and Lestat both had a hand in dooming her to an eternal Pinocchio state.
She runs around the house yelling and slamming doors. Then she gets a pair of scissors and threatens Lestat, slicing open his face.
Eventually, the family splits the way most families do: one of the members kills the other.
It's revealed in the books that Claudia loved and hated both Louis and Lestat equally. She likely would have killed them both, but because she was too small to survive on her own, she needed a caretaker. Soft and sensitive Louis was easily seduced as her slave, while fiery and free-spirited Lestat would have to be murdered. So even though she lashed out at Lestat, the reality was, she loved both men just the same.
With Lestat's "corpse" dumped in the swamp, Louis and Claudia pack up and move to Paris.
What's disturbing is the fact that once she's alone with Louis, Claudia "graduates" from daughter to lover. Mentally, she is an adult and has developed sexual and romantic feelings for Louis that she will never be able to fully express in her child's body.
Yeah. There's a kinda gross Lolita angle here I am not getting into.
Claudia and Louis pretty much live like husband and wife while in Paris, but present themselves to the outside world as father and daughter. Eventually, they meet Armand (Antonio Banderas), a vampire who runs a theater of vampires.
Armand is quick to point out that Louis and Claudia are actually lovers. It's also immediately obvious that Armand is attracted to Louis and wants him for himself. Both Louis and Claudia can feel it, and Claudia accuses Louis of wanting to leave her for Armand.
The Second Divorce
Armand seems to hold Claudia under a sort of spell. While meeting him with Louis, she is very quiet, never speaking. It's almost as if he has silenced her. Later, she reveals that Armand was, in fact, holding a silent conversation with her while at the same time speaking out loud to Louis. According to Claudia, Armand telepathically told her to "let him go," speaking of Louis.
A frightened Claudia scrambles to ensure her own survival by guilt tripping Louis into making her a new protector. She knows Louis wants to leave her for Armand, that if he doesn't, Armand will find some way to take Louis for himself.
Louis eventually agrees and makes Madeline (Domiziana Giordano) a vampire. The second he does, however, the vampires from the theater come and kidnap everyone. Louis is sealed in the wall, while Claudia and Madeline are thrown in a room that is exposed to the sky.
Armand helps Louis escape but purposely neglects to help Claudia and Madeline, who are both killed by the rays of the sun.
In the books, it was actually much more gruesome than that. Armand did a bunch of grotesque things to Claudia, like sewing her head on a woman's body -- whether to really help her "grow up" or to mock her, I don't recall. After this psycho-jealous tantrum, he throws her in the sunlight and lets her body burn up to cover the evidence.
All that so he could get Louis as his lover.
To be clear, none of the vampires actually sleep together. In the books it's made apparent that they are unable to experience arousal because they are the living dead. So vampire "lovers" are people romantically linked, not sexually.
Also, I was joking about Lestat being "sexy" (I'm not attracted to men). People often joke about how erotic the vampire books are, and it's true. Even though the vampires don't really have sex, they sure have a lot of it when they're still mortal. After a while, I was ashamed of the fact that I was reading them. They were practically p*rn, especially the book about Armand. I recall reading that one with a tiny bit of shock.
The Third Divorce
After exacting his revenge on the vampires of the theater, Louis begins a life with Armand and lives with him happily for some time. Eventually, he realizes that Armand was behind Claudia's death and that he killed her out of insane jealousy and possessiveness of Louis.
Armand is disappointed that their relationship lacks passion, and like a true psycho, doesn't seem to understand that in killing Claudia, he effectively broke Louis' heart. Louis tells his interviewer that all his passion "went with her yellow hair."
Louis is broken, depressed, and has lost all his love for life. In killing Claudia, Armand destroyed the very thing he treasured most in Louis.
Louis decides to leave Armand and basically breaks up with him, venturing back to the Americas, where he learns to enjoy life on his own.
Louis, through his various relationships with other vampires, learns to appreciate life, to love himself, to learn to be independent. By the end of the film, he crosses paths with Lestat, who appears to have survived Claudia's assault on him. (It is later revealed that Lestat was so difficult to kill because he drank from Akasha, the first known vampire and thus the queen of the damned.) Lestat makes another offer to Louis -- mirroring the opening of the film -- but Louis is a better, stronger person now. So he declines.
The film ends with Lestat moving on -- as always. He attacks Daniel (Christian Slater) the "boy" who interviewed Louis throughout the film, intent on making him a vampire.
In the books, it was actually Armand who moved on to Daniel after Louis dumped him. Armand became Daniel's lover and made him a vampire. Like Nicolas before him, Daniel goes insane from "the dark gift" and has to be kept in a little room, where he mindlessly builds model trains.
So the entire film was pretty much a bunch of vampires falling in love with Louis one after another and fighting over him. Given that there was nothing remotely remarkable about Louis (aside from his "mortal soul"), he was pretty much Bella Swan before Bella Swan. Of course, no one would ever call him a Mary Sue or shame Anne Rice for making an obvious self-insert.
Funny how that works.
© 2018 Ash