Release date: 22 May 2015
Running time: 101 min
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshell Manesh
Ana Lily Amirpour’s first full length feature as director is more assured than many of its peers. Revisiting the vampire classics of F.W Murnau and Tod Browning by way of David Lynch and Sergio Leone, Amirpour pays homage to the origins of the cinematic vampire without the need for castles, crucifixes or coffins. Like it’s spiritual predecessor Let the Right One in, A Girl Walks Home Alone explores themes of Vampirism in relation to urban disconnect and isolation, and does so in a way which manages to be both profound and profoundly creepy.
Set in the fictional Iranian suburb of ‘Bad City’, we meet a series of lonely characters struggling to integrate with society. Arash (Marandi) is a handsome young man who spends most of his time working for low pay and taking care of his drug addled-father. Supplying his drugs is Saeed, a local thug who also pimps out and abuses Atti, a thirty year old prostitute who is considered to be past her prime. On the outskirts looking in is a nameless girl (Vand); a vampire who stalks the streets at night and preys upon unsuspecting men.
Visually arresting, staunchly feminist and unsettlingly bleak, this is a brave piece of filmmaking which is as cine-literate as it is defiantly different. The striking black and white photography place’s its roots firmly in the genre’s past, whilst allowing room to explore and play with conventions to great effect. The sparse frame and monosyllabic dialogue leaves the actors to use their physicality as a means of communicating their character’s solitary lives; bravado masking insecurity, aggression hiding fragility.
This is demonstrated poignantly by Sheila Vand, who is both emotionally vulnerable and terrifying as the titular girl. Switching the traditional gender roles of power and turning the tables on abusive men, she bares her fangs and attacks without mercy. Gliding silently behind her victims, eyes wide and staring with her chador appearing as a black cloak, she recalls Bela Lugosi’s Dracula as she quietly menaces her victims. Her beauty gives her an almost ethereal quality, but the bags under the eyes and her love of music tell a much more tragic, human story.
A haunting and mesmeric horror, but also an effective study of relationships and the creeping melancholia of solitude, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a simple tale told with great expertise. Amirpour is one to watch.