An Iranian feminist stance that deserves to be seen and widely talked about.
Some films manage the very hard task of grasping the attention of its audience from the first shot. Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature is one of them. The film opens on Arash (Arash Marandi), smoking a cigarette à la James Dean, by the power plant of Bad City. He drops his cigarette on the floor and walks off away from the power plant towards his car. As the shots widens, the setting opens. In a ditch behind him, there are a series of dead bodies. This first sequence is raw and yet minimalist, symptomatic of Ana Lily Amirpour’s directing in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
The film follows a handful of characters, Arash, his dad Hossein (Marsall Manesh), Atti (Mozhan Marnò) and the girl (who walks home alone at night, played by the mesmerizing Sheila Wand), in a story involving drugs, abuse and what looks like the start of a love story. The narration comes down to its title, and as we follow the Girl That Walks Alone At Night, we get to see the characters evolve, their separate stories becoming slowly tangled into one path.
Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour offers a strong first feature film, the most fascinating strength of it being his feminist tone. Don’t be fooled by the title, the girl is by no means a victim. More importantly, she does not take on male codes to be frightening; she is close to the ultimate embodiment of female empowerment. The film tastefully avoids comments on the place of women in society, and never condemns its female characters. Rather, it depicts women that flirt, women that say yes, women that say no. When that no isn’t listened to, it is the horror of the male that plays deaf that is underlined, not the status of the woman that is challenged.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night adopts a feminist stance from beginning to end, but it is also a film that pays tribute to cinema throughout. References to James Dean, a story line and aesthetic reminiscent of Jim Jarmush’s work, especially his latest feature Only Lovers Left Alive, and some sequences that border on the B-movie style are cleverly scattered throughout the film. Sometimes, the minimalist dialogue is taken to an extreme, which slightly weakens scenes, but these are tiny drawbacks to a film that masterfully develops its theme without any faux-pas.
Ana Lily Amirpour is already working on her next film Bad Batch, expected to be released in 2016. Described as “a dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals” on IMDb and starring Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, the film certainly already looks like it could well be Amirpour next’s coup.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014), directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, is distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, Certificate 15.