My initial reaction to Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was that this is what cinema has been waiting for. With feminist undertones, the film tells the compelling tale of a young vampire (Sheila Vand) who preys on the vile and depraved men of Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a lonely existence that is interrupted by her meeting with Arash (Arash Marandi) and the gentle platonic bond that forms between them and gradually intensifies.
Where A Girl Walks Home at Night is truly mesmerizing is in the acutely built atmosphere that permeates every aspect of the film. Through use of gorgeous black and white cinematography that effectively utilizes camera movement, focus, and shot composition, cinematographer Lyle Vincent creates a world that is simultaneously hyper-real and surreal, an eerie place that oozes loneliness, desolation, and muted melancholy, filled with drug abuse, prostitution and criminal excess. It is against this bleak and gloomy backdrop that the young vampire’s protection of Atti, an aging and vulnerable prostitute, and her distinctly human connection with Arash, feel so poignant.
The soundtrack is equally entrancing. The ghostly score fades in and out, accentuating the visually generated atmosphere of unreality, but is juxtaposed with moments of rock music that perhaps act to jolt the viewer out of the atmosphere-induced trance, bringing the focus back to the effortlessly alluring characters. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a film constantly on edge, electric and enthralling despite its slow pace, and instantly, invariably captivating.
Ultimately, this film is unlike anything I have ever experienced before; a delicate, subdued horror film that explores female empowerment through vampirism, infused with the essence of westerns and film noir.
Though the two films are hardly comparable, following Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, I am hopeful that the vampire’s role in film is far from over, and I am eagerly awaiting the next introspective, thought-provoking vampire film. In the meantime, I will be urging everyone I know to watch this remarkable piece of cinema.