A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2015)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At NightIn Bad City, Iran, Arash (Arash Marandi) is struggling to pay off his drug addict father Hossein’s (Marshall Manesh) debts using only his gardener’s wage. For collateral, dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) seizes Arash’s prized convertible, driving it out into the suburbs to meet Atti (Mozhan Marno), a prostitute favoured by Hossein. Saeed is followed back into town by a mysterious Girl (Sheila Vand), who he mistakes for another impressionable young woman open to being pimped. She kills him in his living room, leaving the scene of the crime just as Arash builds up the courage to confront the car thief himself. They cross paths once more a few nights later — Arash now selling Saeed’s inherited narcotics to his ex-employer — and begin to develop feelings for one another; a hunger of another kind.

Recent years have seen the traditional vampire gather dust, as filmmakers from Sweden, South Korea and New Zealand cast the creatures in a whole new spectrum of light. These days, vampires are more likely to sparkle, ghost-write for Shakespeare or flat-share in Wellington than burn up on the cross, but even by contemporary standards Iranian-American writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night places itself well outside of the funerary box. The eponymous vampire — a hijab-clad, techno-punk skater-girl whose lair is lined with pulp posters — is about as far removed from Bram Stoker’s Count as it is possible to get; a discordance further emphasised when Arash dresses up as Dracula for a costume party.

Sheila Vand’s alternative vamp isn’t the only distinguishing factor, however; the Iranian setting, the chiaroscuro aesthetic, and the niche soundtrack also contribute to a sometimes overwhelming sense of originality. Although undoubtedly an arthouse effort, and a film fated for the festival circuit, Amirpour isn’t above more mainstream approbation. The black and white visuals are more likely to recall Sin City than classic pre-colour cinema, while her decision to produce a tie-in graphic novel also speaks to a more modern genre sensibility. That said, there is still something timeless about the whole thing. The film is so singularly surreal that it defies categorisation, contextualisation and even the simplest comparison.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night isn’t just sleek and stylish, though; it’s also incredibly visceral, scintillating and seductive. Some have suggested that the film is patently political and feminist, readings that can be both supported and challenged, but there’s no denying that the film is far more explicit than you might reasonably expect. Shot in America with an international cast, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is free to explore addiction, depravity and sexuality with an openness that wouldn’t have been possible had it been filmed on location with native actors. That said, while Western culture influences the film (indeed, it feels very much like a Western itself), Amirpour is neither condescending towards or critical of Eastern customs; the Girl denies that she is religious rather than Muslim, while Arash is shown to be more traditionalist than most.

Endlessly imaginative and effortlessly iconic, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is likely to be an instant cult classic. However, as eerie, entertaining and evocative as its scenes can be in isolation (the finest of which, scored at first by White Lies and then Arash’s heartbeat, leaves the viewer longing for someone to fill the empty frame), there is an incoherence to the full picture that becomes increasingly frustrating as it goes on. As straightforward and apparently direct as the film’s title appears to be, you’ll likely leave the cinema wondering if the Girl of the title reached her destination or not.



About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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