A calm, alluring & subversive arthouse endeavour from Ana Lily Amirpour in what’s her feature film debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is as impressive as it is unconventional, as beautiful as it is brooding, and as hypnotic as it is haunting. Touted as “the first Iranian vampire western”, it is a fascinating blend of horror, romance & western that’s original, meditative & masterly composed.
Set in an Iranian ghost-town that reeks of death & loneliness, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night tells the story of a lonesome vampire that wanders the desolate streets at night; stalking, killing or protecting whoever she deems fit. But things change when she comes across a guy who’s just as lost as her and, in an effort to connect with each other, something beautiful is born between the two.
Written & directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is crafted with stunning restraint & presents the up-n-coming filmmaker in absolute control of her craft. Lily Amirpour’s direction exudes both patience & confidence as she spins her own take on the vampire folklore with this twisted fable of two lost souls without giving in to genre conventions, and isn’t afraid to employ silence as a powerful & effective tool.
For a debut feature, it is an incredibly sophisticated effort, and Lily Amirpour not only exhibits her firm grip on storytelling elements but all filmmaking aspects. The story takes place in Bad City, an Iranian town in the middle of nowhere, and the deserted locations, vacant streets & fraction of denizens add to its graveyard like aura while the resurfacing shots of drilling pumps perpetually sucking oil out of Earth serves as an interesting companion to its vampiric themes.
The script is only concerned with the doings of two characters, Arash & The Girl, and the rest of the town’s inhabitants are discerned by simple tags assigned to them. What’s also admirable is that it is never in a hurry to switch to the next moment and actually embraces the silence & emptiness that permeates every frame, which in turn contributes to its somber tone & funereal gloominess. But there are also times when its extended takes bring the narrative to a standstill.
Shot in crisp black-n-white, Cinematography brings an elusive quality to the whole picture with its static camerawork, skilful use of slow-mo technique & beautifully composed shots, and further intensifies its otherworldly setting. Another one of my favourite aspects is its mesmerising soundtrack, comprising of sensibly chosen tracks that are evocative and always in check with the emotional requirements of any given moment.
Coming to the performances, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features a committed cast in Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marnò, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains & Rome Shadanloo, and each one of them get sufficient time on screen. Vand’s subtle expressions & unwavering gaze turns her silent showcase into the most impressive performance in the movie and she is brilliantly supported by the rest of the cast, each playing their part with utmost conviction.
On an overall scale, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a somber effort that’s elegiac in its approach, dreamlike in its presentation, and subdued in its addressing of topical themes. Crafted with care & intimacy, it promises an etherial, absorbing & aesthetically fulfilling experience to those willing to embrace its slow-burn narrative and marks a promising start to Ana Lily Amirpour’s filmmaking career. Although its fangs aren’t as deeply embedded as I would have liked, this thoughtful meditation on loneliness is still a delightful discovery that’s worthy of a broader audience.