Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Interview With the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire is a 1994 American gothic horror film directed by Neil Jordan and stars Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and, Kirsten Dunst. The movie is based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Anne Rice. The movie starts in present-day San Francisco California where the main character, Louis de Pointe du Luc (Pitt), is being interviewed by a reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) at nighttime. Louis claims to be a vampire but Daniel does not believe him, until Louis starts telling his story. The vampire’s story starts in 1791 Louisiana after the death of his wife in childbirth, which has thrown him into a deep depression , making him want to die. One night while drunk he is attacked by the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Cruise), who sees Louis’s dissatisfaction with life and gives him the choice to become a vampire. Louis accepts but soon comes to regret his decision when he finds out that he must kill humans to survive. Instead, Louis chooses to drink on animal blood. Lestat persistently attempts to make Louis feed on humans, which causes them to get into a fight. After their altercation, Louis starts to aimlessly walking the streets of New Orleans intending to leave Lestat. During this he discovers a young girl named Claudia (Dunst) whose mother has died of the plague, and being unable to resist anymore he feeds on  her almost to the point of death. Lestat finds Louis doing this which causes the younger vampire to run away in shame, but seeing the effect on Louis, Lestat takes Claudia back to their home and turns her into a vampire. He tells Louis she is their daughter now and therefore can not leave them, so the three live together for many years until Claudia begins to realize that she will never age. This makes her curious of vampirism and resentful of Lestat for changing her, which sets in motion a number of events including multiple attempts to kill Lestat, as well as Claudia and Louis’s travels in Europe. The whole time the story is being told the audience is also seeing bits of the present with Louis and Daniel, who is slowly starting to believe that the man is truly a vampire. In this blog post I will be looking at how the filmmakers changed the character of Louis and certain parts of the story.

In both mediums our protagonist, Louis, tells us his history. In the film, Louis’ characteristics seem to always be that of a mopey, brooding man unhappy with his life whether as a human or vampire. When he starts to tell Daniel his tale, Louis talks about the deaths of wife and child which caused him to grow despondent. Looking for a way to die but unwilling to do it himself, Louis acts recklessly and puts himself into increasingly worse situations. After Lestat turns him into a vampire, Louis’s personality doesn’t change much and stays for the most part in a depressive state and is never able to enjoy his transformation into a vampire. In the book there seems to be more complexity to the emotions that Louis is feeling, because we also get his inner thoughts. Another reason that his emotions come off differently in the novel is because the backstory of the character is changed pretty significantly. The book includes an entirely different family for the character, where instead of a wife and child, he lived with a mother, sister and brother on his plantation. Louis was closest to his younger brother Paul who was deeply religious, and even built his brother an oratory on their plantation to pray in. Paul began to have visions and believed them to be coming from the Virgin Mary. Through his inner thoughts we learn Louis could not get his brother help because at the time, 1791, people with such illnesses were treated horribly. When Paul realized that Louis did not believe in his visions he committed suicide, something that the Louis considered to be his fault. This is what drove Louis to depression in the series and because Louis starts his tale before this point, showing some of his relationship with his brother, the reader has a deeper understanding of the character and his hatred of taking human lives to live as a vampire. 

With this background as well, we see how Louis’s Roman Catholic upbringing affected his views and questions on good on evil along with a pursuit for the answer if God is real. Louis wants to believe that because such evil as vampires exist, which could only be the creations of the Devil, then God must also exist. The answers to these questions are what Louis is looking for during his time in the “old world,” Europe, while Claudia wants to find more of their kind. These questions that the character is asking, helps the reader to see the war with himself, instead of like in the movie where Louis’s hesitation is never fully explained. Making the character seem more angsty than contemplative, as in the novel. The change of the backstory for Louis strikes me as quite odd, because in the books Louis’s history seems so much deeper and gives meaning to the internal struggle the character has. Whereas in the film, the backstory just seems like a place to start Louis’s story from and doesn’t really have much bearing on the character; when it could have been the thing that shows why Louis had such strict morals about keeping human life. This change could have come from the fact that the filmmakers didn’t want to increase the movie’s runtime with an elaborate backstory. But thinking about that, it still would have been beneficial for the story to give a little more background on Louis, so the viewers could better understand why he acts the way he does as a vampire.      

 Now looking at some of the changes made to the plot of the story, I will start with the climax. In the film when the final conflict of the story seems to come, everything after seems to happen very quickly. After Louis and Claudia meet the Paris vampires, one of them Santiago (Stephen Rea), reads Louis’ mind and hears the name Lestat hinting at the fact that Claudia and Louis might have killed the other vampire. This is the one rule in vampire law that means death, but, being raised only by Lestat, Claudia and Louis do not know this. While meeting the other vampires the two main characters also meet the leader Armand (Antonio Banderas), who wishes for Louis to leave Claudia and be his companion. Claudia seeing this forces Louis to transform a Parisian woman, named Gabrielle, into  her new caregiver. Right after Louis turns the woman, all three of them are abducted by the Parisian vampires and sentenced to death— Claudia and Gabrielle by sunlight and Louis by starving to death in a coffin. Eventually Armand comes to save Louis so they can leave together, but only after the death of Claudia, which he could have prevented. Louis’ knowledge of this makes him refuse to leave with Armund. He returns to the theatre where the vampires are living and kills them all by setting the building on fire. In the books these events happen more slowly and in the span of what appears to be a few weeks rather than days. Louis does change Gabrielle for Claudia, but even after that he can seem to leave his “daughter” so the three live together for some time before they are kidnapped. When they are brought to the theatre it is revealed the Lestat is there and has told the other vampires of Claudia’s attempts to kill him. The Parisian vampires sentence Claudia, Louis, and Gabrielle—  the same as in the movie, but Lestat tries to stop them from killing Louis because he wants the other vampire as his companion again. But Lestat is still weak from the attempts to take his life, so the other vampires go against him and it is again Armund that saves Louis. This change could again be accounted for by the runtime, which though it is not a very long movie, it would have been if these events were spread out to weeks instead of days. 

The last change in the movie that I would like to address is at the very end. After Louis has finished telling his story to Daniel, the reporter becomes excited by the idea of vampirism and asks Louis to change him. Mad that Daniel did not understand how the tale was supposed to show the hardships and sadness that comes with being a vampire, Louis shoves Daniel across the room and disappears. The reporter then rushes to his car and begins listening to the tape he recorded Louis’s story on. While driving Lestat appears in Daniel’s car, telling him he will give the man the choice to become a vampire and then feeds on him while Daniel is driving. This causes a car accident but Lestat doesn’t care and takes over driving because Daniel is unable to function from blood loss. In the book, after the interview has finished the reporter again asks Louis to turn him into a vampire, but instead of just throwing him and disappearing, Louis feeds from the young man until he falls unconscious. Daniel then wakes up in the morning, still wanting to become a vampire. He goes to the car and starts the tape intending to go to New Orleans and find Lestat where Louis last saw him in the 1920’s, hoping that the older vampire will turn him. This ending was probably changed because the filmmakers wanted to bring the character of Lestat back for the end of the movie, even though he wasn’t there in the book. The final scene was also used to mirror the interaction Lestat originally had with Louis in 1791, even saying the same line to Daniel, “I’m going to give you the choice I never had.” This call back is a great way to end the movie and it leaves the audience with a lasting impression, but for readers of the book series, not just Interview With the Vampire, they would know that Lestat is not the one to change Daniel into a vampire, but instead Armund. It seems like the filmmakers never intended to make the one movie into a series like the book, which makes me believe that they end the movie the right decision. As it felt like the closing of a story and not one that needed to be continued unlike in Rice’s novel.

I watched the movie, Interview With the Vampire, a few times growing up and I could never seem to really wrap my head around it fully. I felt like there were things I was missing or not understanding, which was partly because of my age, but I also think it was because the filmmakers had to condense such a detailed book. There were parts of the film that almost felt too subtle, like when Santiago read Louis’s mind, that an audience wouldn’t necessarily understand in their first time watching. After reading the book and then watching the film again, I found the story much easier to follow and fully understand. I like the movie very much, but that being said, I think for a viewer it would be very hard to really understand the story and characters without having also read the book.The book goes into much more in depth with the character’s emotions and Anne Rice’s world of vampirism that I think it would only benefit the viewer. In my next blog post I will be looking at the newly released Netflix movie Rebecca, based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.                                

— Jo Spangler, Film blogger.

Jo Spangler’s Bio:

Jo Spangler

Jo Spangler is a junior at Lewis University, majoring in English Literature and Language with a minor in Creative Writing. She is a writing tutor in the Lewis Writing Center and a Youth Enrichment Aide for the YMCA. In her free time, Jo enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, and watching movies. She has been to 10 countries outside the United States, including England, Italy, Turkey, and Austria. One of Jo’s favorite book series is The All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness, because of how she mixes the supernatural with history and the focus on character development. In the future, she hopes to go into the publishing industry to help find new and exciting books for people to read.

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