Oh, poor Claudia.
There are a lot of vampires and other cursed beings wandering through the 1994 film adaptation of Interview With A Vampire but Claudia (Kisten Dunst) is the only one for whom I have any sympathy.
Louis (Brad Pitt) may be the main character and the vampire giving the interview but it’s hard to have much sympathy for him. He’s just such a whiny little bitch. The Louisiana aristocrat is transformed into a vampire in 1791 and basically spends the next 200 years complaining about it. You want to have sympathy for him but sometimes, you just have to accept stuff and move on. It doesn’t help that Brad Pitt, who has always given his best performances when cast as men of action, is somewhat miscast as the effete and self-loathing Louis.
Lestat (Tom Cruise) may be the most charismatic of the vampires but he’s never exactly sympathetic. He turns Louis into a vampire and then spends years following him across Louisiana and Europe. Lestat is decadence personified and he never whines and, as a result, he’s far more enjoyable to spend time with than Louis. Cruise is as perfectly cast as Lestat as Pitt was miscat as Louis. Lestat is a star and Tom Cruise has always been one of the few true movie stars around. That said, Lestat is still far too self-indulgent and thoughtlessly self-destructive to really be a sympathetic character. Instead, he’s like Lord Byron, destroying happy families but at least writing a poem about it afterwards.
Armand (Antonio Banderas) runs the Théâtre des Vampires in Paris and he becomes Louis’s companion for a time. Louis is charismatic because he’s played by Antonio Banderas but, ultimately, he proves to be a rather ineffectual leader. Armand puts on a good show but, in the end, that’s all he has to offer. He’s a bit shallow, despite all of the theatrics.
Santiago (Stephen Rea) isn’t sympathetic at all but at least he really seems to get into being evil. Good for him!
And then there’s Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater), the journalist who conducts the interview with Louis. In the film, Malloy starts out as a cynic, the type of writer who theatrically pours himself a glass of whiskey before dramatically turning to his typewriter. All he needs is a fedora with a press pass tucked into the headband. It’s difficult to take him seriously.
But then there’s Claudia. Poor Claudia. In the book, Claudia was only five years old when she was turned into a vampire. In the movie, she’s played by 12 year-old Kirsten Dunst and it’s left ambiguous as to how young Claudia actually was when Lestat turned her into a vampire, though it’s still made clear that was too young to be cursed without her consent. Claudia becomes Lestat and Louis’s companion. Louis treats her like the daughter that he will never have. Lestart treats her like an apprentice, teaching her how to kill. Claudia grows up but is forever trapped in the body of a child. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Claudia, who never asked to become a vampire, who indeed was just turned so that Lestat could use her as a pawn to keep control of Louis. Claudia spends a good deal of the movie in a rage and who can blame her?
Interview With A Vampire is a messy and uneven film. Brad Pitt is miscast and the whole film is oddly paced, with the New Orleans scenes taking too long and the Paris scenes going by almost too quickly. At the same time, Tom Cruise brings the proper joie de mort to the role of Lestat and Claudia and her fate will simply break your heart. Interview With The Vampire is not the best vampire movie that I’ve ever seen but it definitely has its pleasures.