A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

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26/05/15

Despite the rather ponderous title, there’s much to recommend about this low budget indie from Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour, not least the stark black and white cinematography and the assured performances by a cast of unknowns. While the industrial settings and bursts of white noise occasionally echo early David Lynch (with Eraserhead an obvious touchstone) and some of the soundtrack tropes are clearly influenced by Ennio Morricone, there’s nonetheless a lot here that’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen on a cinema screen.

The story is set in ‘Bad City,’ an industrialised hellhole where the sight of a ravine filled with heaps of dead bodies doesn’t seem to cause any of the inhabitants to raise so  much as an eyebrow. Arrash (Arash Marandi) is a handsome young man, saddled with the upkeep of his junkie father, Hossein, who is in hock to vicious drug dealer, Saeed. When Hossein can’t pay what he owes, Saeed does not hesitate to take Arrash’s much-prized car as a part-payment. Into this bleak scenario wanders ‘The Girl,’ (Sheila Vand) a hijab-wearing, night walking (and occasionally skate-boarding) vampire, who seems to choose her victims according to a strange, self-determined code, homing in on those who she deems to be wicked. It’s an intriguing performance from Vand, as beguiling and compelling, as it is, occasionally, terrifying. She first meets Arash when he is stoned, returning from a fancy dress party dressed as Dracula. She promptly wheels him back to her place and a quirky romance ensues…

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a fascinating film, pretty much the last sort of movie you might expect to emerge from Iran. Even though the sexual overtones of the story are portrayed in an allegorical way, they are undoubtedly there, along with unflinching scenes of drug-taking and some interesting role reversal – here the girl on her own is the one you need to be afraid of. It’s an assured debut from Armipour, who manages to create something really original here, proving once again, that the supposed demise of the vampire movie has been somewhat exaggerated. This is another fresh twist on the genre, that will have you discussing the film long after you’ve left the cinema.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

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