Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is receiving a lot of hype and deservedly so. Vampire films have been, for want of a better word, milked of late, so it takes something really special to garner the kind of love Amirpour’s debut (apparently the world’s first Iranian vampire spaghetti western) has.
Like Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, Amirpour’s vision is one distinctly truncated from typical vampire iconography, more focused on the character dynamics effected by vampirism. Though, there is a cool kind of postmodern reflection at work here. The Girl (the superb Sheila Vand) glides down the streets of Bad City on a skateboard, her black veil rippling in the night breeze, calling to mind every cinematic rendition of Dracula ever. The discourse is highlighted when Arash (Arash Marandi) dresses up as the count for a club night, only to have his first late-night encounter with The Girl, both symbolising the past and future of vampire cinema. This kind of keen eyed visio-ideological conception is easy to love. It makes for refreshing viewing.
It’s an odd world Amirpour wants to show us, Bad City is a kind of ghost town full of peculiar characters and party-hard youth, a place where people walk past a gargantuan pit of cattle corpses every day without batting an eyelid. Vampirism is the least troublesome problem here, since Amirpour voices a furious dismay for patriarchal customs and the treatment of women in contemporary culture. The daydream of escape by a young man is universal shorthand for changing times, and brings an odd but intriguing tang of Americana to this vampire noir. One scene sees Marandi’s James Dean-type eating hamburgers by the bonnet of his convertible with The Girl, the pair illuminated by the floodlights of a nearby power plant. Its beautifully lyrical imagery.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night also happens to be one of the most concise technical feats I’ve seen this year. The monochrome visuals are crisp and moody, perhaps reflecting Film Noir sensibilities more than the touted western vibes. Either way, its impossible to deny how gorgeous a film this is, how impressive the framing and lighting are, how easily the film throws up memorable images. Not least, the basic idea of the veiled girl’s silhouette, moving shadow to shadow, is an automatic contemporary horror icon.
There’s a lot of iconic seeming moments in Amirpour’s debut because it is a deeply evocative honest piece of work, and it translates so much so perfectly. A poignant coming of age film and a distinct, arresting example of horror cinema.