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
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot