Vampire movies have always been and perhaps always will be a subject of fascination in many categories of fictional media, drawing such fascination from its centuries-old folklore. However, what seems to be apparent in cinema of the past decade or so is a reinvention of the vampire figure to make them seem less monstrous and more human, with the tragedy lying in their disconnect with the world in which they live. A number of varying vampire flicks from Let The Right One In to Twilight to this year’s Only Lovers Left Alive demonstrate this trend in distinct ways. Therefore, imagine my joy in hearing of the existence of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the debut film from a female Iranian director that takes a female-centric look at the mythos of these blood-sucking characters. After watching it, I was even more pleased to see that this film isn’t just female-centric, but also very feminist! As always, such films are immensely welcome and should be seen by far more people.
Essentially, Girl Walks Home is a gorgeous hodgepodge of varying themes and genres, somehow melding together in a completely coherent and substantial work of art. The film does follow a vampire (specifically a female vampire in a Muslim society), but apart from a few scenes it rarely delves into conventional horror tactics. In fact, its desolate settings and concentration on its protagonist’s interactions with others around her make it more like a western than anything else. In ways this is even more subversive, given that the western genre is one that is particularly chauvinistic and not exactly lady-friendly. One of the more interesting facets of the film is its being filmed in various spots throughout California, despite its mise-en-scéne being uncannily reminiscent of a run-down Middle Eastern town. This imagery, combined with its breathtaking black-and-white cinematography and bizarrely brilliant soundtrack, makes this flick an absolutely stylish, moody delight for those who are into that kind of thing.
At the same time, however, Amirpour’s creation offers so much more than this surface-level brilliance. The important thing to realize about her vampire is that she strictly preys upon men – every kind of man as well, from drug addicts to pimps to rapists. In such a fashion (not unlike Abel Ferrara’s protagonist in Ms. 45), she loudly makes aware the daily struggle women much endure in a multitude of male-dominated spaces. As we witness such encounters endured by our lead character – while sporting a long, dark hijab, no less – we are also watching what seems like visual catharsis from the filmmaker, speaking what pretty much all women have envisioned at one point or another. This lady vampire does have heart, however, as her feelings of discrepancy and loneliness find mutuality with Arash, a James Dean-esque man who serves as a sort of ambiguous love interest. While this subplot could have weighed the movie down in tragic, terrible ways, it is handled in a rather lovely way, remaining subtle among the rest of the film’s themes.
With all this being said, however, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is far from perfect. Granted that many of its problems are common of first-time filmmakers (its rather stale pacing, for example), I could honestly say that I enjoyed a selection of scenes from the film more than I enjoyed the movie as a whole. There’s a subplot involving Arash’s heroin-addicted father that the film doesn’t really get into very much; while it is refreshing for the focus to fall on ladies for a change, the mere inclusion of this subplot is distracting from the rest of the much more interesting narrative. However, I’m all for a film that would dare parallel something as peculiar as vampirism with something as beautifully sensitive as femininity and womanliness. There is countless bits of imagery in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night that make it well worth the watch on its own; however, for the more inquisitive cinephiles out there, it could possibly hold a lot more meaning with admiration for the much less conventional.