By Megan Kroger
Vibrant, awake, alive even, are all terms frequently associated with the stereotypical visit to New Orleans. From everyday life to its festivals, it is a city deeply rooted in tradition and remembrance. It has to been seen as ironic that it is the main back drop for the film Interview with the Vampire, based off the novel by Anne Rice, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Pushing this even further are its two main characters, Louis and Lestat, who “scarcely participate in history” (Auerbach), and instead move with the flow of modern times, whether it is 1890 or 1980. Rice and the city itself convince viewers though that New Orleans is the perfect destination for Louis and Lestat. Between the tolerant, French influenced attitude, the geographical location of the city, and the gloomy, gothic architecture of the graveyards, New Orleans is the ideal place for vampires.
Before understanding why Rice chose New Orleans, it is important to know how the French arrived in the first place. Upon being banished from their colony in Nova Scotia, after a loss of control to the British, the Acadians, as they were called, fled to the east coast of what would become the United States. By 1764, they had settled in the rural areas surrounding New Orleans (Heimlich). When Louis starts his story it is 1791, only thirty years after the Acadians’ arrival and only six years after the city received thousands from France itself. It is evident that their culture and pride is still very much intact. Throughout the movie, viewers are reminded of this through accents and the interspersing of the French language, people referring to one another as monsieur or madame for example. Another characteristic that stems from the French is their emphasis on sexual delights (Hirsh). Louis and Lestat frequently feed on whores and easy woman, simply because they are easy to come by. Sex to them is something to be celebrated, not shunned. Stealing prostitutes away from a party does not look suspicious at all, the only difference being that their date ends in an unexpected, and unfortunate for her, way. The two are also able to live together, nurturing a young vampire, Claudia, as their own, without raising eyebrows. Even though they appear to be homosexual lovers, as Rice even intended for it to seem (Gelder), they are accepted, as New Orleans is known for its open attitude (Hirsh). In 1870, Claudia and Louis even travel to Paris with the goal of understanding the origin of vampires. Since “Paris is the mother of New Orleans”, it is probable that is also gave life to vampirism, which is the implication given. Louis eventually returns to New Orleans, as it will always be home for him.
The ideal location of Louis and Lestat’s home specifically creates for even more easy opportunities. Living right by the Port of New Orleans, there is a constant stream of people coming into the city. It is even mentioned in the film that immigration in the 1800s allows them to continue living in the same place without stirring up questions. When there are always new people, there is no one wondering why they are not aging. Also with a large population, it is easier to kill and go undetected. The port did not only bring people, but rats as well, who carry disease. People were dying left and right because of it, so the vampires could simply slay and claim it was the disease that took their victim’s life. Yellow fever could also help with this, which hit New Orleans throughout the 1800s due to the mosquitoes (A Brief History). The city undeniably has a hot, humid climate, which may not be loved by people but is the perfect atmosphere for mosquitoes. We also see the effects of the physical location of New Orleans in the graveyards.
Since vampires are technically dead, feeling at home is much easier done when the tombstones in a graveyard are actually built similar to houses. Because the city lies below sea level, the dead must be buried in above-ground tombstones. They are an important part to the culture as well though, especially on All Saints day. Tombs are cleaned as though they are houses and celebrations occur within the cemetery (Percy). The structure of the tombs allows for this, with the ability to go inside, some even being two-stories. Viewers first see one of these tombs at the beginning of Louis’ story, it representing the depression he sunk into after losing his family. Viewers see inside a tomb again at the end of the story, where Louis and Lestat have their reunion. It is where their relationship began and where it is going to end, but this time with the roles reversed. Lestat is weak and Louis is superior, allowing him to finally overcome the control Lestat has had on him the entire time. Lestat eventually regains his power, but he has moved onto another victim and Louis is no longer involved. After Louis loses Claudia, he even compares his life to a New Orleans cemetery. It is full of statues which he cannot communicate with, relate to, or that can give him any purpose.
The role of New Orleans allows viewers to see the trap vampirism has caused for Louis but how it can fuel being a vampire, as it does for Lestat. Vampires are seen as figures to “whom boundaries [mean] very little” (Gelder) so New Orleans is the supreme location for them, a place boundaries can be stretched, what of them there are. With the port being so close, they do not have to think of themselves as limited, they are free to explore as Louis and Claudia do. While they are not constricted to a tomb as the other dead are, graveyards still hold significance for them. It is ironically where Louis transformed into a vampire, beside the dark and dreary graves of his family. The Big Easy is the ultimate for vampirism, as it makes a life that seems difficult appear simple.
1. “Interview with the Vampire” Cover, 2008, Fanpop, http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/Interview-With-the-Vampire-vampires-513861_1024_768.jpg
2. Louis and Lestat Feed, 2012, Tumblr, http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lhlclx4s161qhdk40o1_500.jpg#interview%20with%20the%20vampire%20bite
3. Port of New Orleans, 2012, Billie Silvey, http://www.billiesilvey.com/port-of-new-orleans.jpg
4. New Orleans Cemetery, 2012, WordPress, http://loveangellocin.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/scene-cemetery.gif
“A Brief History of New Orleans.” The Institute for New Orleans History and Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2013
Auerbach, Nina. “The 1970s: Feminist Obligarchies and Kingly Democracy.” Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1995. 153. Print
Gelder, Ken. “Vampires in the (Old) New World: Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.” Reading the Vampire. London: Routledge, 1994. 108-11. EBSCOhost. University of Richmond. Web. 3 Apr. 2013
Heimlich, Evan. “Acadians.” Countries and Their Cultures. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013
Hirsh, Arnold R., and Joseph Logsdon. “The People and Culture of New Orleans.” (n.d.): n. pag. New Orleans. Web. 3 Apr. 2013.
Percy, Walker. “City of the Dead.” Signposts in a Strange Land (1916): n. pag. Print