Ana Lili Amirpour’s directorial debut feeds on an array of different influences and inspirations whilst experimenting with style and tone. Its playfulness is counteracted by its gothic undertones. Based on the director’s own graphic novel and described by her as “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western”, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has individuality and a unique identity that you don’t expect from a first feature. It is evidently influenced by comic books, American pop-culture and the films of Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch, but it still manages to make its own voice heard amongst its respected elders. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night feels like the kind of movie Quentin Tarantino would love to make if he were able to return to the same creative head-space in which he created Pulp Fiction. Set in an eerily quiet and unusually empty Iranian town, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night centres on a solitary vampire who stalks the streets at night looking for a feast and possibly a friend. Meanwhile, numerous citizens are going about their daily lives; one in particular, Arash, just wants to drive his vintage car and cure his Father of his crippling drug addiction. The film opens with our heroine’s first hunt – a horrifying first kill majestically unravels, setting the mood and tone for what else is to come. Ana Lili Amirpour diverts her audience back and forth between characters and scenarios; sometimes we’re the vampire’s friend and other time’s we’re in the position of her victims. This tactic means we’re never sure of where we stand as a spectator. Should we be sympathising with our isolated protagonist or should we be looking over our shoulder’s waiting for her eerie, cloaked figure to suddenly appear?
Actor Sheila Vand encapsulates the hijab-wearing entity in a performance of little expression but vast subtlety. She slides around the imaginary middle-eastern under-world on a skateboard and listens to old records in her room. Her face remains frozen in a blank but intense pose for the majority of the movie, only broken when she feeds on her prey or taunts a young boy in the film’s most chilling scene. Well-paced and in no rush to get anywhere too quickly, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night meanders from each stylistic sequence to another, all cloaked in black and white; a world divided into light and shadows. It’s reminiscent of the artistic flare found in the animation of Persepolis, another graphic novel adaptation set in Iran. It also shares the broodiness of Jim Jarmusch’s better films and is comparable to Only Lovers Left Alive his recent take on the vampire genre. It may be unfair to compare A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night to Let the Right One In, the Swedish romantic, coming-of-age drama that changed the vampire cinematic game forever, six years ago. Amirpour’s debut may not have the emotion and heart of Tomas Alfredson’s icy masterpiece but it shares its spirit, silence and stillness. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a refreshing transformation of the vampire genre – the most powerful since Alfredson’s red and white vision.
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