A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) By Ana Lily Amirpour
Retro Review by Jessica Carr
Horror has become a genre that I find myself liking more and more the older I get. And despite the confusion as to what genre A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night really falls in, I still put it immediately at the top of my horror list.
The black and white film follows an isolated vampire (the girl) as she stalks and preys on male victims in an imaginary Iranian town called Bad City. Things look gloom and doom in Bad City until the girl (Sheila Vand) meets the dreamy and very James Dean-esque Arash (Arash Marandi).
Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour places an emphasis on a combination of music, images, and body language to set the tone for this atmospheric film. There isn’t a lot of dialogue, instead Amirpour relies on her visionary force as a filmmaker --- with massive payoff.
The best scene that illustrates this takes place in the girl’s bedroom. She leads Arash there after finding him dazed and confused while high on ecstasy staring at a light post. The girl puts on a vinyl record that plays “Death” by White Lies. The song plays in its entirety as Arash slowly creeps up behind the girl. She very slowly turns to face him and looks like she is about to bite his neck only to gently place her head on his chest --- all happening at a snail’s pace.
The sensual tension built up between these two characters is almost unbearable, but also the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen. Clearly, Amirpour has taken cues from Kar-Wai Wong’s In the Mood for Love in regards to fleeting romantic moments between characters.
Contrasting against the romance in this movie is the very industrial setting. Shots of oil rigs pumping black gold from the earth are carefully placed. A movie that seems to reflect the industrial tone would be David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Amirpour admitted that Lynch was one of her favorite directors and his influence on her style is very apparent.
Dressed in a hijab, jeans, and a fringe cowboy-esque shirt Reza Sixo Safai’s character, Rockabilly, seems to be plucked straight from a Lynch film. Also, like Lynch—Amirpour will not say exactly what message her film is trying to send. Is it a feminist film? Is there a political message? I’d argue that it doesn’t really matter. To me, the film transcends feminism because a female filmmaker made a film that I would consider one of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen.
Though Amirpour gives nods to her heroes, she still creates her own masterpiece with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Her experience as a DJ gives her the biggest advantage when it comes to creating a soundtrack. Although she swapped her DJ gear for a camera, her skills as a director are still showcased. She shows patience with her camera—lingering on each character.
Overall, A Girl Walks Home is a starting point for Amirpour’s filmmaking career that places her at the top of my to-watch directors list. Additionally, I’ll be waiting to see what Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi do in their future. Fingers crossed that Arash does more movies in a white shirt, leather jacket, and tight jeans.