A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
London Film Festival: Ana Lily Amirpour's beautifully crafted, self-described 'Iranian vampire western' is a bewitching blend
Etched in kohl and doused in dark humour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the bewitching first feature from writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour. She's a Los Angeles-based, English-born filmmaker of Iranian descent whose debut also resists easy definition as she produces something surreal, confounding and instantly iconic. This fiendishly imaginative, distinctly feminist fusion of western, vampire flick and low-fi black-and-white indie will touch your soul and trouble your dreams.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is set in the fictional Bad City (actually Bakersfield, California), a ghost town whose residents favour a diverse range of retro influences. It finds a small, skateboard-riding vampire known only as 'The Girl' (the wonderful Sheila Vand) stalking the townsfolk, dispensing bloody justice and lessons in life. She's dressed in a long chador-like veil which, in the dead of night, gives her a spectre-esque silhouette, while revealing a less-than-terrifying Breton-striped top beneath.
The Girl's underground lair resembles a teenager's bedroom and we see her shed her gloomy get-up to dance alone to 80s and 80s-inspired pop. This isolated figure sweetly falls for the James Dean-channelling, not-even-vaguely-bad-ass drug dealer Arash (Arash Marandi) and they come tentatively together during a scene of romantic yearning set to 'Death' by White Lies.
Amirpour and her team effectively employ chiaroscuro and create an old-fashioned, almost unearthed aesthetic. She's like an artist melting together found objects to form something original, with apparent influences ranging from Carnival of Souls, Touch of Evil, Hammer and Universal horror to Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch and Sergio Leone. The soundtrack brilliantly combines western and classic horror-style mood music with soaring pop and dance beats.
Despite the strong vein of leftfield humour there's some surprisingly chilling stuff here, with Vand making for a pretty scary bloodsucker. But that the film leans toward the story of love triumphing loneliness means it's ultimately about how difficult and dangerous it is to let someone into your heart.
Screened on Mon 13, Tue 14 and Thu 16 Oct as part of the London Film Festival 2014. General release Fri 22 May.