A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014, 1 hr, 39 mins)
Imagine if John Hughes, Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch passed a vampire script around in a game of Broken Telephone, put it in a blender and channelled it through writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour. I think the outcome would be A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, her the debut feature film that premiered at Sundance last year, was an award winner at several film festivals and is currently nominated for 3 Independent Spirit Awards.
Arash (Arash Marandi) is a young man burdened with the task of caring for Hossein (Marshall Manesh), his grieving junkie father. He makes his money by gardening for a wealthy family and tries to pay off his father’s creepy drug dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) on time. Living in the same, bleak town is a mysterious, nameless girl (Sheila Vand), a girl who you might see sitting at the back of the bus or in the last seat in class, if she showed up at all, quiet and menacing. She is a chador-wearing vampire and silently wafts through the night, looking for her next meal, and smiting wrong-doers in the process. Arash and The Girl meet after he leaves a costume party, high and lost in the deserted streets of Bad City. Dressed as Dracula, he is made fearless by the drugs; oblivious to her creepy nature and predatory intimidations. This fateful meeting starts a complicated romance that is punctuated with an incredible soundtrack, and a cat that connects these strange and melancholy characters.
Spoken entirely in Farsi, this movie is described as the first Iranian vampire western, and although this may have been Amirpour’s intention, my frame of reference made it more of a John Hughes love story because of the quirky and deliberate musical storyboarding, set in Eraserhead‘s bleak landscapes almost 40 years later. Although all those legendary references can be seen, her film is unique and one that will have a different definition for each viewer. It is a horror film, dark comedy and art film all in one; visually stunning with its beautifully stark black and white cinematography and equally stark, subtitled dialogue.
As an animal lover, I noticed she cleverly built tension with the cat, making you wonder what his role was and whether he was literally and figuratively safe. Honorable mention goes out to Rains who played Saeed the drug dealer. He gave the character life with his obnoxious antics. Vand’s intense portrayal of The Girl’s conflict with her loneliness and her vampire nature contrasted with Marandi’s faux tough guy act, creating an endearing chemistry and highlighting their isolation. Both gave subtle yet powerful performances that will stay with you well after the film’s final scene.
Amirpour’s attention to detail is meticulous, from the lighting, to the chador-clad pedestrian crossing signs which authenticated the Iranian ghost town; and underlying themes and symbolism like the feline, female identity and sexuality, and the parallel realities of Arash and The Girl will surely provide lots of film school essay fodder.
Go see this film if you want something unique and visually captivating, and especially if you are a cat lover because Masuka the Cat steals the show!