Not since the tag team of Tarantino and Rodriguez has a filmmaker laid bare their inner most workings of hobbies and film heroes to this extent. First time feature director Ana Lily Amirpour has done just that with this American-Iranian melting pot, distilling her infectious personality in 100 minutes.
Like a string of photographs set in motion, lit for maximum shadows, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night taps into the ubiquity of the American indie spirit, with whiffs of Jim Jarmusch in the suburban shots and moody lighting. The striking location work of Bad City, a post-industrial ghost town where bodies rot in ditches, is extenuated in black and white. It’s a breeding ground of misfits and delinquents, and it’s telling that the actors are billed with archetypes: ‘The Pimp’, ‘The Junkie’, ‘The Girl’.
The Girl (Sheila Vand) is Nosferatu reimagined in her black hijab, striking an eerie beauty in shots channelling German expressionism, with her blood smeared mouth and dark make-up, half in and out of shadow, or rising from the bath like Orlok from his coffin. The Junkie (Marshall Manesh) is in the hallucinogenic throes of junk withdrawal, and a burden on his son, Arash (Arash Marandi). Arash is neither rebel and not quite delinquent, instead he's a despondent portrait of American cool: bequiffed, leathered, and in jeans and a white tee. The kind of denim clad hip now only found in old movies, photo archives or fragrance adverts.
The cinematography frequently juxtaposes natural images with the grungy machines in states of decay. Every frame is knowingly and self-consciously shot, with the influence of Sergio Leone in the long shots, wide angles and close ups; the gothic and the art house straddle the spaghetti westerns Amirpour was weaned on. Taken just as disjointed vignettes, it's a series of lingering shots like those where The Girl shadows The Junkie from across the street, or when she skateboards towards the camera, her hajib fluttering cape-like behind her.
Amirpour has loved and lived with the story, basing the feature on her graphic novel of the same name, and developed in the 2011 short she toured around the festival circuit. The storytelling is subtle, working on image, suggestion and the nuanced performances of its cast. In short, this is the definitive version of her vision. The meandering soundtrack is testament to her own eclectic music collection, boasting Iranian rock group Kiosk alongside English post-punk outfit White Lies. It’s all underpinned by unsettling Lynchian soundscapes fizzing in the background din.
AGWHAAN is a meditation on gender politics, rape culture and the danger the title entails, both domestically and globally. Its feminist subtext debates toxic masculinity and its reach, with The Girl an exacting and primal force on men who have wronged women. Not since Let the Right One In has a vampire film so effortlessly challenged and changed the zeitgeist. It's no coincidence that both films exist well outside of the US and the Hollywood genre malaise. Its style and complexities may have won you over, but the behind the scenes documentary will make you fall for Amirpour as much as her debut feature.
Special Features: Behind the scenes documentary / Interviews / Trailer
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ANA LILY AMIRPOUR / STARRING: SHEILA VAND, MARSHALL MANESH, ARASH MARANDI, DOMINIC REINS / RELEASE DATE: JULY 27TH