Home Arts “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is all bite

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is all bite

by Sara Baron-Goodman March 10, 2015
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is all bite

Sink your teeth into this feminist, nostalgia-ridden film.

Right away, the title of this film conjures up a vaguely ominous, if not romantic picture, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night delivers just that, but not in the way you would expect.

From breakout director Ana Lily Amirpour comes this poignant if not slightly confounding film, presented like a lovechild of Giant and Nosferatu, with a strong albeit murderous female lead.

The Girl (Sheila Vand) enforces feminist justice in the dark streets of fictional bad city. Press Photo.

The story—if there is really a story at all—takes place in the fictional, eerily desolate oil-town of Bad City, meant to be Iran but filmed in Texas. The narrative opens with a wide shot as we follow Arash, a Persian James Dean type played by Arash Marandi, driving through town in his Thunderbird, cooly shaking off a request for money from a young raggedy boy on the street. He has no money, he says, and soon we find out why: his father, an aging junkie with a penchant for gambling and the company of a certain prostitute, is indebted to a leering pimp.

Before the appearance of the gangster-prototype pimp, the black and white throwback aesthetic, vaguely American backdrop and classic car could all fool audiences into placing the setting as a 1950s suburban dystopia.

When we meet The Girl, played by Sheila Vand, she is lurking in the shadows, watching from under her black cloak as the pimp threatens the prostitute, throwing her out of the Thunderbird he has reclaimed as collateral from Arash. Several minutes later, The Girl, all eyes and red lips under her hijab and cloak, suggestively sucks on the pimp’s index finger before biting it off with her fangs and zeroing in on his neck. The Robin Hood of Bad City, she takes his jewels (most of which we can assume were stolen themselves), and leaves him to bleed to his death on the floor.

Thus begins The Girl’s walk through the night, as a purveyor of feminism, protector of wronged women, and slaughterer of the men who have done these wrongs. When she comes across the young beggar boy, her fangs come out as she makes him promise that he will be good, implying that even this young innocent would likely succumb to the seedy male stereotype of the men in Bad City. She looks about to go in for the kill, but instead locks her eyes on his and swears that she will be watching him until the day he dies.

With her pixie cut and striped shirt, The Girl skulks in the Hitchcockian shadows like a vampire vigilante version of Jean Seberg. She’s the truest kind of femme fatale, all bite and no beating around the bush.

When finally our two heroes meet it’s all poignant silences and wide-eyed staring, a budding romance that wants you to believe that these two kids from the darkest of circumstances might actually have a fighting chance.

The score was perfectly minimalistic, creating suspense with complete silence, broken only by the sound of footsteps approaching and the occasional branch rustling in the wind as The Girl meets each of her supporting characters. The musical tracks, used sparingly, were excellently campy with bursts of rock-n-roll, contrasting against the eery silence of the Bad City streets.

The low-budget nature, naturalistic soundscape, slightly disorienting jump cuts between scenes, relatively actionless plot, and allusions to 1950s aesthetic in the costumes and props conjures up reminiscences of a darker, seedier side of the French New Wave.

The film is at once highly nostalgic and entirely fresh.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an Official Selection for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently playing at Cinema du Parc until March 12.

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