Spudguns! It's that time again, for the all vampire book and movie club. This month's combo is the book The Vampire Lestat (1985) and the movie version Queen of the Damned (2002). Now, the movie actually is half of this book and half of the third book in The Vampire Chronicles.
I have to say, The Vampire Lestat, is my favourite book. I read this when it first came out; when I was 12. Most of it went over my head, but that didn't stop me from connecting to it. My copy ended up being a permanent fixture in my purse from the time I read it in 1986 until just a few years ago. I've read this four times completely in the last 31 years. It also coloured the spiritual path I ended up on.
Book: We open in 1985, with Lestat waking up after sixty years buried underground. His dreams have been affected by the radio news, and general conversations of the people living in the area around him. It's steeped his hunger in more than one way. Lestat is most drawn to the punk metal band living on his property, their music having coloured his dreams. He decides he wants to become the new lead singer, telling his new neighbours that he's going to write everything, and pay for everything. He then begins to tell the group about his life, and decides to write not just the music/lyrics of their album, but his autobiography as well. He's done this with the intent of stirring up trouble with the vampire community. We then are taken through flashbacks to his childhood in France, where he has runaway to join a group of traveling actors, where he falls in love with his best friend Nicolas; who has also runaway to become a musician. Nicolas's violin music has helped to propel them to a small theater, where Lestat is the lead actor and Nicolas is the head musician. Before long, Lestat is kidnapped and taken to a tower by the vampire Magnus. Magnus does not teach his new fledgling much other than telling him the most basic of rules, before setting fire to himself and dying. Lestat is then left to explore his new nature. Soon, Lestat returns to his friends at the theater and learns his mother Gabrielle is dying. He decides to turn her then. She's his first fledgling. Nicolas becomes his second, and for a few years they live in harmony. But Nicolas has become so depressed, he sets fire to himself as well. At this point, Lestat meets the ancient vampire Armand, who is the coven leader in the area. The coven proves to be lacking in their own own identity, until Lestat gifts them the theater. He then goes with Gabrielle to Egypt. Here, Lestat meets Marius, one of the oldest vampires on the planet. Marius tells Lestat about how he was turned, just as Armand had told him his own story. Marius also tells Lestat about Those Who Must Be Kept. The two first vampires, whom Marius is the caretaker of. Akasha and Enkil. Akasha and Enkil, have not moved or fed in hundreds of years, and have become like stone. Lestat does not let this stop him though as he plays music for them, causing Akasha to move for the first time in over a hundred years. Lestat is then turned out, banished from them, and goes to the New World. Here, he spends nearly a hundred years with his next two fledglings, Louis and Claudia, before Claudia's attempt to kill him. From here, Lestat confesses that he went underground for the first time in 1929. We are now back to the "present", and Lestat is getting ready for his first rock concert. He has openly broken all the rules of the ancient vampires, by telling mortals about them. This enrages the other vampires, and they have all begun showing up at the concert trying to kill him. But, each of his enemies suddenly bursts into flames, and Lestat believing it's Marius returns home to wait for his friend. When he is given a dream message of Marius trapped in ice, he learns that the one causing his enemies to burn is indeed Akasha awakened. His last image is of her grabbing him just as the sun is rising.
The main themes I got from this novel were desperation, vanity, loneliness, fear, grief, anxiety, wanting to be loved and fearing the ability of not being loved, and the ying-yang of spirituality. We are taken through every major religion from Christianity to Celtic beliefs to Egyptian beliefs to the lack of beliefs.
This novel manages to hand you every polarity there is in spiritual terms, from Armand's coven who claim to devote themselves to Satan but still follow Catholic ideals; to Dionysus, to Osiris and Isis's myth, to the Druidic worship of nature.
The very thread of the main relationship between Lestat and his mother Gabrielle is that of the Pagan views of the moon/sun stories and metaphor for the changing of the seasons. As his mother is dying of a wasting disease, the son rises to her aid; giving her this new rebirth. (the mother goddess with her lover/son with the death rebirth of the seasons) This is then paralleled with the characters of Akasha and Enkil, who are the center of the Isis/Osiris mythology. The god being struck down by his brother who chops him to bits, leaving his wife to piece him back together all but one part. Thus, he becomes the god of the dead/underworld. (as the vampires in The Chronicles can not have sex)
The male/female roles are very blended here as well. The female characters are very strong characters who as they become vampires become cold towards everyone else, while the male characters are the more emotional and passionate characters. And of course, this lends once again fittingly to the whole idea of the destruction side of the goddess, and the nurturing side of the god. In fact, all the female characters seem to be the ones in control of the situations. From Gabrielle being not just Lestat's mother, but the fact she directs their journey for most of it, and comments about how she could see the direction the world is headed. That she envisioned a new religion where the vampire was feeding openly and humans being little to nothing. (which of course is Akasha's grand goal later on) The mention of Claudia from the first novel, who demands to be given equal power as Lestat, feeling she is more deserving than he is given her being stuck as a child. To the female vampire in Armand's coven who is clearly more in charge than even he is.
When Marius is telling the story of when he first drank Akasha's blood hundreds of years before, how he fell to his knees kissing her hand, therefore becoming her most devoted follower. That is just another version of the Dracula/Renfield story line. Master and servant. This also finds its way in to the rest of the novel in a much subtler way. Lestat's human lawyer/banker is nothing more than another example of this pure devotion. Even though Roget does not know of Lestat's true nature, he still acts in the same way. Even Enkil is nothing more than an over barring bodyguard to Akasha in the end. The character of Enkil sits silently moving in a rage only when someone tries to come between himself and Akasha.
I actually loved the idea that we come full circle with the little "families" that Lestat has. In this novel, (which even though it's book two, it's first in the story's timeline arch) we see Lestat with his fledgling mother who is this blonde wild creature, and his dark haired depressed best friend/lover Nicolas. And in Interview with the Vampire, we find Lestat in a family with dark haired depressed best friend/lover Louis and the child fledgling Claudia who is this blonde wild creature. I thought the direct parallel was a brilliant link to the chain. And once again, comes to the idea that it's a metaphor for the old myths of the changing of seasons, the cycles that constantly repeat themselves. (the women he can never possess, never understand, never get over and never control)
I also love beyond words, the fact Lestat is a telling of Dionysus. It's not just something the character refers to, but is in part woven directly into the whole make up of the plot. There is a section on page 330 where Lestat is thinking about the myths and stories of Osiris and Dionysus comparing them. "This god Osiris was the god of wine to the Egyptians, the one later called Dionysus by the Greeks. And Dionysus was the 'dark god' of the theater, the devil god whom Nicki described to me when we were boys at home. And now had the theater full of vampires in Paris. Oh it was too rich. I couldn't wait to tell it to Gabrielle." It's the character of Nicolas who brings up the whole idea of becoming a Dionysusian. Of throwing their breeding to the wind and diving into the arts, living in a frenzied state of that of actors and musicians. And then we see Nicolas fail to reach his own ideals as Lestat embodies them effortlessly.
movie: it's the year 2000, and Lestat has been in a self induced coma for most of the 1900's. He is drawn to the goth band who are down the road from his hiding place, and decides to join them. As the band gets ready for their first concert, a group of paranormal scholars, called the Talamasca, are worried about the sudden rise in paranormal activity. They have been watching for hundreds of years, chronicling the most powerful vampires and witches around. Jessie is still new to the Talamasca, but very eager to take on the task of being Lestat's watcher. She soon becomes involved with him on a personal basis. Jessie also feels connected to other members of the vampire society, experiencing odd dreams of her family and members of the biggest vampire coven. On the other side of the planet, Akasha the first vampire, has been awoken from a three thousand year sleep by the sounds of Lestat's music. She frees herself from the confines of her hideout and begins searching for him. Everyone ends up at Lestat's concert. The members of the Talamasca, Jessie, Akasha, Marius, Armand, Pandora, and Jessie's aunt Maharet. We learn that Maharet is one of the oldest vampires, created at the same time as Akasha, and therefore Jessie's dreams are more than she has believed. Akasha then kidnaps Lestat, promising to make him her new king, as she begins to create her version of a new world run by vampires. Everything comes to a head in Maharet's underground mansion, as the vampires declare war on each other.
Since this film is the combination of books 2 and 3 in the series, it is a bit unbalanced. I do like this film, the ideas are there they just could have been polished a bit more. I didn't care for the way they did the character of Jessie at all. Nor did I overly click with the "goth scene" they threw them into. That's something I would have kept to the original a bit more, having it either still in the 1980's rock style or better yet, given it was done in 2000-2001 I would have maybe set it in the very late 1970's.
One of the big differences in the movie to the book is the fact they combine two of the vampires; Magnus and Marius, making them one character. (Another is that they completely removed the main story of the twins from book 3.)
The fact they had a different actor playing Lestat in this movie from the first (as well as Armand. Who are the only two characters brought over from the first movie) actually makes sense to me. This story is suppose to be a good hundred years after the first movie. Lestat is in a different state of mind, he's grown, had major loss, basically been through a divorce (yes I'm comparing the idea of Louis leaving him to a divorce) and pretty much has a different attitude. Having Stuart Townsend playing Lestat as the rock star works. He looks like he could be Jim Morrison. (though I would have loved loved loved to have seen Val Kilmer in this role)
My favourite scenes are pretty much the ones between Lestat and Marius (Vincent Perez from Crow 2 City of Angels) Perez brings a nice balance of slyness to the role. Almost as if he's playing a cat and mouse game that no one really realizes they are part of. The term seductively bored, could easily be used for the way he presents the character. He manages to say more with a tilt of his chin and down casting his eyes, then some of the other actors do with a full monologue.
The big themes I got out of this film were acceptance of self, and the feeling of belonging. You almost get the idea that they were subtly exploring oppression, but it gets lost somewhere along the way. You also completely loose any of the spiritual aspects from the novel Vampire Lestat. All the questions on what is good/evil, all the metaphors and myths about world religions are completely missing here.
And that's about all for now. Our next combo will be in June, and it's Witches of Eastwick, both book and movie. But I'll be back later in the week with the official announcement post for it.