In a post-Twilight movie world, we’ve watched sadly as the once deadly vampire genre sauntered back into its coffin. Thankfully, first-time director and writer Ana Lily Amirpour has found a way to breathe new life into the obsidian fiends with her directorial debut, A Girl Walks Home at Night.
In the film, we follow The Girl, our un-named protagonist, (or should that be antagonist?) who has just arrived in the Iranian province, (and aptly named) Bad City. There, on a creepily quiet killing spree, she crosses paths with Arash, a local youth dealing with his drug addict dad. Then, as the rules of movie-lore do declare, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship.
The first thing that stands out about Amirpour’s debut is the deafening silence. Much like a vampire, every shot seems entwined with a quiet grace that seeps into every frame. Filmed in black and white and mostly during night time, the surface of the film plays out like a gritty indie flick, dealing loosely with issues of drugs and prostitution. Thanks to the bloodsucking young lady in the background, however, it’s much more.
But the indie movie vibe is certainly omnipresent: even the clothes of the characters are all so quintessentially cool, with The Girl herself, (played wonderfully eerily by Sheila Vand) looking like the lead singer of your favourite alt-rock band. As for the plot, much like the tone of the film, everything is very slow, sad and minimal. The idea of a quizzical urchin walking the streets in darkness and meeting odd characters along the way is even reminiscent of Mike Leigh’s Naked: it carries subtle philosophies with The Girl’s every step.
No, this is certainly no Twilight. What Amirpour has masterfully achieved is instead a very patient story about lost souls. Not that vampire fans should be worried: there is blood, and quite a lot of it, but the end product is more ethereal and dream-like than scary. Imagine if Wes Anderson directed a horror film, for example. There’s even a scene worthy of Juno, where the two leads sit in her bedroom listening to cool songs. With the tone of the film clearly established, everything else slots into place. The two leads are enigmatic in each other’s company, the direction is poised and well deduced, and the fantastical element seems as human as the rest of the stories.
With most vampire tales, there always seems to be an allegory lurking round the corner: a modern fairytale that represents the issues of modern society. For A Girl Who Walks Home At Night, many have viewed this as a fantastical metaphor for Iranian society and the restrictive nature of young life. Whether Amirpour had this in mind or not, however, is by the by: alongside 2008’s Let the Right One In, movies like this are once again making a defunkt genre fly.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is out now