The National: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Every time a genre film has significant success at the box office, you can reasonably expect a slew of imitations quicker than a Hollywood producer can say: “Buy me a script that’s similar to that thing that’s number one at the box office.” Most recently, “young adult” fiction has been in the spotlight, as the success of The Hunger Games spawns a hundred Divergents – but we’ve seen it so many times before, with war movies, spy thrillers and, of course, the golden era of Iranian Vampire Westerns. OK, I may have made that last one up, though perhaps Ana Lily Amirpur’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the self-proclaimed first Iranian Vampire Western, could prove to be the trigger. Shot entirely in moody black and white, the movie is set in the fictional Iranian town of Bad City, a gloomy place with an indelible aura of death and misery about it – not a million miles removed from that other stylised city of recent cinema history – Frank Miller’s Sin. The aura of death becomes more pronounced as we learn that a lone vampire, known only as The Girl (Sheila Vand), is stalking the town’s residents. The story follows the unconventional romance that develops between The Girl and Arash (Arash Marandi), but Twilight’s Belle and Edward this ain’t. Arash’s life is constantly hampered by his drug-addict father and the memory of his, presumably deceased, mother, while The Girl tends to prowl the night wearing a hijab and riding on a skateboard she liberated from a young victim. The film relies far more on atmosphere and style than romantic narrative developments or even dialogue, and weaves a hazy, dreamlike tapestry on screen thanks to disorienting camera angles and a great soundtrack taking in elements of 80s, electro, Ennio Morricone and unsettling ambient fuzz. At 99 minutes, the film maybe dwells a little too long on painting its twisted, unsettling picture in which, narratively, not that much actually happens – but then, that’s never stopped David Lynch, and the audience at tonight’s second screening is guaranteed a visual and aural treat.