A Girl Walks Home Along at Night has a chador wearing vampire who haunts the streets of (fictitious) Bad City somewhere in Iran. She is out to punish the perpetrators, aggressors, uncouth inhabitants who prey on women and is out to put an end to lechery and misogyny (all of her three victims being men) and the crimes that have gone and continue to go unpunished. With film noir as its canvas, A Girl is like a vampire classic from the 60s, when justice against the evils of humanity did not need digitized images, or heavy-duty weaponry. And while this female superhero is meting out her form of justice, she meets her boy and an unlikely romance blossoms. In the span of just over 100 minutes we witness lust, death, blood, vengeance and, yes, poetic young love.
In A Girl, actress Sheila Vand plays the vampire and does well as the lonesome soldier manning the streets of this sinful abandoned ghost city. Through her vigilantes, she stumbles upon Arash, who is not just any ordinary boy: he is the model of what she is fighting for. He takes care of his sick, aging father Hossein, who continues to squander his life and health on drugs, booze and women. No surprise that Hossein becomes one of the Girl’s victims.
The love story between the Girl and Arash is of young love and very comforting. When Arash, who is walking home in a vampire costume after having snorted up some ecstasy at a costume party, bumps into the Girl, the irony of this chance encounter is not lost: the only way the Girl could meet a worthy suitor is if he was of her own kind, even if only in the camouflage of a costume. While the case of mistaken identity resolves itself and the Girl realizes that Arash is just human, love has already taken flight.
The film is interestingly conceived and draws from various schools, most notably film noir for the sense of dread found throughout the movie. Mostly shot at nighttime, the black and white shots symbolize the ambiance of the sins that transpire in the dark, barren and moribund city space that we have inherited from the ills of our post industrialized world.
Director and writer Ana Lily Amirpour describes the film as “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western” and has her own life experience smeared all over it. Born to Iranian parents in England and then moving to Florida and later California to make the United States her home, Amirpour’s A Girl is that self-styled, worldview critique of women and their place, always seen through the male gaze.
The most memorable moment in the film is when on her hunt for perpetrators the Girl meets this young boy no older than ten, and asks him if he has been a good boy. The boy acknowledges that he has and the Girl warns him that she will be watching him, throughout his life to make sure that he doesn’t falter. Amirpour’s poignant critique of how they need to be caught young to make sure that innocence isn’t corrupted by ideas of masculinity, patriarchy, and misogyny and is pointing fingers at the world and how we are letting it all go awry. It takes the Girl hiding behind her vampire cloak and her fangs to suck the blood out of this perpetual cycle of violence, quite literally.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night opens in Montreal on March 6 at Cinéma du Parc.