The Incredible Sulk: Interview with the Vampire review (1995)

From the archive: ‘The film excites neither fear nor awe, since the positioning of the narrative from the vampires’ point of view drains it all of any terror’

The Irish Times, January 20th, 1995

The Irish Times, January 20th, 1995

 

Academy Award-winning Irish director and screenwriter Neil Jordan has donated his personal archive to the National Library of Ireland.

Among the items in the collection are personal correspondence, drafts of film scripts, story boards, production files, notes and photographs.

Below, we take a look back at the review of Jordan’s 1994 film Interview with the Vampire. The piece was written by Helen Meany and first appeared in the paper on Friday, January 20th, 1995.

Watching Brad Pitt sulk his way through Neil Jordan’s gothic fantasy, it’s tempting to hope that this vampire business is just a phase he’ll grow out of. Is this a bad case of adolescent ennui, or what? But 200 years of bloodlust don’t seem to have made it any easier, as he tells the avid journalist to whom he confides the weight of all his guilt about being undead, inhuman, parasitic, the lot.

From the opening scenes in late 18th-century New Orleans, where Louis (Brad Pitt), a young landowner, is first bitten and initiated by Lestat (Tom Cruise) into a restless pursuit of human blood, expectations that Jordan’s heavily hyped adaptation of the Anne Rice novel would be a lavish affair are amply satisfied.

A hothouse atmosphere of languor is created and sustained by the lush tones and rich colours of Dante Ferretti’s production design, Philippe Rousselot’s photography and Eliot Goldenthal’s moody score.

Less Sympathy For The Devil than I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, this plaintive tale, narrated in a first-person voiceover by the pouting Louis, traces his ceaseless search for satiety, from New Orleans to Paris to Los Angeles. For him and Lestat — played with a malicious, if asexual, energy by Cruise — God is dead and there is no hell fire, just this baleful life on earth and a series of corpses. Forget the garlic and crucifixes, these ubervampires can only be harmed by the rays of the sun, or burning.

Some welcome black humour filters through the bite-and-angst routine, especially when the unhappy pair is joined by Claudia the vampirette, (Kirsten Dunst) who is trapped in her little girl’s body, frozen, as the years pass, at the age she was when Louis first sank his teeth into her neck.

The threesome then enact a parody of the nuclear family, with Claudia tossing her pretty Shirley Temple curls, all slammed doors and tantrums, while she coyly serves up victims for her “parent” Lestat to prey on.

This extended sequence is finally rescued from stasis by the second of the film’s three inferno scenes, allowing Louis and Claudia to escape to Europe. If in doubt, burn down the set, seems to be the guiding principle, which is used with even more special effects later, when an entire crypt-full of vampires goes up in flames in Paris.

The notion of vampires running a theatre company, posing on stage as, well, vampires, is a nice touch, which gives Stephen Rea an all-too-brief role. But by this stage we have become disillusioned and the shimmer of the costumes and sumptuously dressed sets is unable to disguise the sense of sheer tedium.

It’s not just the fault of Anne Rice’s script, which teeters towards parody without going all the way, nor the uneven pacing, the series of inert tableaux and the lack of any erotic charge between Louis and Lestat; these are overshadowed by the fact that the film excites neither fear nor awe, since the positioning of the narrative from the vampires’ point of view drains it all of any terror.