|UK Release Date||22nd May 2015|
|Director||Ana Lily Amirpour|
|Reviewed||11th May 2015|
A highlight of the LFF 2015, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the stunning debut from writer/ director Ana Lily Amirpour. The best Iranian black and white, spaghetti Western, Vampire movie you will ever see. An unusual, cool, memorable treat. Pop culture meets old school horror meets Iranian New Wave. It’s something all right!
In the Iranian ghost town of Bad City there are some bad people around. A ghost town in all respects, the heavy sense of loneliness and displacement looms like stormy clouds over the city. It’s a sparse, squalid place where not much good seems to be going down. Local James Dean type Arash has worked hard as a gardener to a spoilt rich family, mostly to buy his beloved Thunderbird (2000 days of hard graft it cost). Arash’s father has become a junkie since his mother died and in the clutches of general lowlife scumbag dealer/pimp, Saed. The drug debt Arash’s father owes means Saed takes his beloved car but Arash’s luck is about to change drastically when The Girl, a charismatic lonely, young female vampire comes into the picture.
The first full feature by Ana Lily Amirpour may be appropriating heavily from several genres but it’s certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In moody black and white DP Lyle Vincent and Amirpour have created a shadowy, sparse landscape full of secrets and mystery. The Girl’s bedroom is full of retro posters and the overriding feeling whilst has decidedly retro roots has ended countered that with enough modern twists to make it feel fresh and exciting.
This movie is tipping the horror genre on its head. Just think about the title, it conjures up the stereotypical image – a vulnerable girl preyed on and hurt by a man. Here it is the girl that is to be feared, she is not in fear, she is to be feared. The fact that she is walking home alone at night means that those who have done wrong should be scared, male or female. The Girl justifies her wrong doings; her murderous needs to herself, with the fact that she preys on those that deserve punishment. A Vampiric Equalizer if you like. As any good vigilante knows though (ask Batman), this doesn’t always work, mistakes are made and some people don’t want to be saved from their situation. This is the case with prostitute Atti who forces The Girl into a little self-examination, as does her relationship with Arash and a child she befriends. Armirpour is doing her best, and mostly triumphing at giving what is essentially a monster, as much humanity as she can. Just the fact that the vampire in case is female is interesting and Armirpour is asking us to go along with the idea that elements that are more heavily associated with being female (kindness, empathy for example) would remain or certainly have remained in The Girl.
Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi are obvious stars in the making. Framed in moody black and white with our titular vampire looking every inch the beatnik poet. Sheila Vand can convey a plethora of emotions with a look and Arash is also capable of some pretty moody staring that conveys a thousand words. Their chemistry is well directed and they make for a suitably cool, influentially young, beatnik misfit couple. A memorable screen duo indeed.
The costume design is pretty low key but works perfectly. The Girl's dejelleba takes on a splendidly mysterious and seductive power as it becomes a bat like cloak; particularly when The Girl ends up with a skateboard a glides around on it. The soundtrack is strictly traditional Farsi or new wave pop like White Lies and is well used again mixing tradition with retro and modernity.
The dialogue is as sparse as the landscape. The moody silences sit well amongst the darkness and loneliness and nothing is lost in translation. It gives the film quality - albeit a rather nightmarish one. Language is not necessary to convey emotion in Amirpour’s Bad City. The Girl and Arash circle each other like wild animals at her apartment. No touching required. Every emotion is skilfully conveyed in expression and body language. It’s a beautifully handled scene.
For all of this darkness there is also much humour in the movie. One scene in particular is hilarious - Arash coming from a fancy dress party, high on his first E dressed, as Dracula finds himself face to face with The Girl. ‘I won’t hurt you’ he slurs then gives her a big, smiley ravers hug. Funny stuff indeed. Amirpour is tackling cannibalism next with The Bad Batch, “a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texas wasteland. “It’s Road Warrior meets Pretty in Pink with a dope soundtrack.” Sounds awesome.
A composition reflecting on the displacement of youth and the isolation of society, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a truly great achievement by first timer Amirpour. The presence of a strong female character is refreshing to see in this genre and it is just so unusual. Like the stealthy approach of The Girl, it will take you quite by surprise and play on your mind for quite some time to come. See it if you can.