Deathless, ruthless and bloodless

This vampire never dies. He never makes us laugh either. Or feel afraid . Adam Mars-Jones on Neil Jordan's all too melancholy Interview with the Vampir e

Some are born deathless: some achieve deathlessness: others have deathlessness thrust upon them. This cosmology is the essential innovation that sets Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, written for the screen by her and directed by Neil Jorda n, apart from the competition in a fairly crowded field. Many recent ventures in the genre, such as The Lost Boys, have been at least half jokey, and even more serious films, like Kathryn Bigelow's fierce Near Dark, spent a lot of their time trying to fi nd a chink in the old dispensation (what a stroke of luck there happens to be a veterinary operating theatre to hand, where we can arrange a total blood transfusion) whereby those bitten become vampires in their turn.

In Interview with the Vampire, victims of Lestat (Tom Cruise) don't automatically join him in his eternal limbo. They aren't recruits, they're empties. If he chooses to promote a human being to vampirehood, as he does with Louis (Brad Pitt) in 1791, thenhe must undertake a further procedure, a sort of blood transfusion, which Lestat seems to experience as a traumatic orgasm. It isn't something he takes on lightly - it's not like buying a pet. He is creating a companion who will be friend or enemy, lover or rival, forever.

In Coppola's Dracula, for all its visual astonishments, it seemed absurd that vampirism was still being treated as a metaphor for repressed sexuality, since in the film's version of the 19th century there was nothing repressed. Interview with the Vampiregreatly benefits from its more sophisticated setup, which means that vampirism can be seen variably as a curse, a perversion, or an alternative lifestyle. We spend almost the whole film in the company of vampires, being asked to identify with the victims only in one gruelling scene near the beginning of Louis's undead career, and there is enough variation between the vampires in temperament and even in their supernatural powers, ("The dark gift is different for us all") to stop us from missing our own kind overmuch.

But then Louis, who provides the film with its point of view, remains in some way human. A Parisian vampire (Antonio Banderas) at one point even described him as, "A vampire with a human soul" and this, oddly when you think about it, is a compliment. Louis lives on animals' blood as long as he can bear it, and is never quite reconciled to his fate. He becomes obsessed with the quest for an original vampire, someone who is born undead, and not made that way. Brad Pitt wanders the centuries looking elegan t and melancholy, which is a relatively easy task given that vampirism in this version isn't disfiguring. All it does is create tiny dark blue veins that encroach on the cheeks and forehead, and it requires hair to be worn long.

The hero's preoccupation leaves the film available for Tom Cruise to dominate whenever he has the chance. The earnestness, not only of Cruise's screen persona but of his approach to stardom, the doggedness with which he imposes himself on audiences, is mercifully in remission with this role. He genuinely seems to relish the preposterousness of Lestat, his dry explosive humour, his casual cruelty (unless the wearing of a sharp plectrum on one thumb, for tapping an artery, counts as humane) and his senseof grievance. Lestat, as he often reminds us, was not given the choice he gives to his own potential recruits, of deciding whether to be a vampire and live or to remain human and die.

Lestat, though, is only a glorified supporting role. He claims to have chosen Louis for his fire and his anger, but these are well hidden from the audience. The overall mood of the film is undeniably melancholy in a way that dampens the excitement that is anything but an optional element of the genre. One necessary consequence of the narrative's siding with vampires and not victims is that we, too, are deprived of sunlight, and though cinematographer Philippe Rousselot can make night-time look sof t andwarm, without the moral alternatives of light and dark, we become vaguely sad rather than greatly excited.

Neil Jordan's direction is highly accomplished, without bearing a strong signature. The celebration of impossible love, which has preoccupied him so much, from Angel through to The Miracle and above all in Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, doesn't come intoInterview with the Vampire, where there is plenty of impossibility but not a lot of love. The film's eroticism is muted and homosexual; an honourable compromise by Hollywood standards, but not offering Jordan much to get his teeth into.

It is still an achievement to contain potential jostling elements in a single over-arching mood. When Lestat recruits Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), a child, to console Louis's melancholy, the new arrival not only destabilises their partnership but also threatens to do the same for the film. There is a flurry of new themes here: explicit parody of family sentiment, the subversive suggestion, since Claudia is ruthless, that Louis's scruples are acquired and arbitrary, and an idea that is sentimental in its ownway, namely that it is worse to be cheated of a childhood (and also, paradoxically, of a maturity, since Claudia cannot develop sexually) than to be cheated of a life or a soul. Dunst has a very disconcerting presence in the role, and the scenes of a sort of emotional triangle between two vampire adults and a vampire child are in some ways the best things in the film.

On the basis of The Company of Wolves, it seemed that Jordan might favour stylisation with this new film, but he and production designer Dante Ferretti opt for painstaking re-creations of New 1790s Orleans and 1880s Paris. A single shot, of a group of hooded vampires seen from above, pouncing in formation on a helpless victim, recalls the absurd brio that Coppola brought to his Dracula, but Jordan doesn't enjoy hokum for its own sake, which is a disadvantage in this line of work. There has been no stinting on special effects, and some of the stunts we see go some way beyond the standard ones. Yet it is possible to see the screen filled with the howling undead flying in flames, like an aerial display team from hell, and not be jolted out of the mood of solemn contemplation. At moments like these, it seems that Neil Jordan is better at capturing the eternal ennui of the vampire condition than the cheap thrills which are the lifeblood of the genre.

n On release from Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Arts and Entertainment
Nicki Minaj's lyric video for 'Only' features Drake as the Pope, Minaj as a dictator and Chris Brown as an army leader

music 'It was inspired by Cartoon Network'

Arts and Entertainment
James Nesbit in The Missing on BBC 1

TV review

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
    Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

    What are Jaden and Willow on about?

    Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
    Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

    Cold war

    How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
    Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

    Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

    From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
    Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

    Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

    New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
    Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

    Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

    ‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager