[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
The title is almost as intriguing as the red and black poster that dons a mysterious woman in a headscarf. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night directed by female director Ana Lily Amirpour and selected for the Sundance Film Festival, gives you a rush of questions: who is this girl? Why is she alone at night? Will she make it home safely? To answer the last question, the answer is yes. She does arrive safely, but its not really her home she’s walking to most of these nights.
Considered the first “Iranian feminist vampire western,” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes place in Bad City, a fictional, underground Iranian town. The girl (Sheila Vand), who is never referenced by name, stalks the night of this Bad City, because she is not just your ordinary Iranian girl, but a vampire.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was released at a time where audiences were just over the slew of vampire movies that hit the big screen in the past decade. But this girl’s vampirism isn’t the basis of this story, it’s her desire to destroy the prevalent gendered violence in the city. By targeting men she believes are “bad boys,” she gives women living in the city agency without hardly ever uttering a word. Dressed in a traditional black headscarf, the girl roams the streets almost like a reflection of the female oppression that once haunted Iran before the revolution. She is possibly the most rebellious, yet traditional, character in this film; in the privacy of her room illuminated by a disco ball, she dances freely to 80’s new wave, swaying her short hair, but when she leaves the safety of her cultural haven, she wears her black headscarf which covers her almost completely.
The girl feeds off the blood of men she sees destroying the town, including drug dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains), who enjoys the company of prostitutes, especially the despairing Atti (Mozhan Marnò). Our anonymous vampire girl is the embodiment of a strong-willed female character as opposed to Atti’s character, who succumbs to the monetary pleasure prostitution allows her.
Although the reason why girl mostly targets victims like these are never revealed, it can be assumed she wants to right what she says are “bad things” that have been done. She looks weak and small next to criminals such as Saeed, and you could see her easily falling into a lifestyle similar to Atti to survive, but she does not succumb to the submissive female role like many women in the film. Instead, she uses the power of her vampirism to rid men like Saeed who still have control over the city and its women.
The girl enjoys toying with the patriarchal control of the prevalent misogynists in the film; in one attempt to sway evil, the girl rips off a finger from a man who enjoys having his finger sucked and teased by women, including Atti. She then makes the man suck his own finger, the same way he enjoyed watching women – completely sensual, erotic, and humiliating. The girl ultimately tries to get back at this misogynist man who enjoyed the pleasure of demeaning women and using them for sex. Actions like these are examples of a woman who is trying to rid gendered violence and the dangerous men who oppress women; men who perpetuate the belief that women must be submissive to them.
She continues this mission by saving those who are weak — primarily the women and children of Bad City. The “weak” are juxtaposed against the men in power who are wealthy off their committed crimes.
When the girl threatens a young town boy, she does this so that he will grow up to be a “good boy,” and not be influenced by the hateful men the Bad City holds. The boy’s character seemed to enjoy spying on the many crimes going on; possibly giving him the idea that actions like these are acceptable- but our anonomyous protagonist tries to prevent this from happening by scaring him into reversing traditional gender roles by implementing the respect for women in the town.
What balances the girl’s mysterious quiet presence, is the company of Arash (Arash Marandi), a young man providing for his junkie father Hossein (Marshall Manesh). The lonely pair enjoy each other’s company with only a few words exchanged, and do not ask too much about the other’s life. Arash does not know that the reason he keeps running into the girl at night is because she can only go out when the sun is down, and the girl is blind to Arash’s crimes during the day.
The girl is what will captivate you, as well as the film’s perfectly played soundtrack and the films editing. An endeavor of cinematography and story telling, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the girl-power induced film that will set as an example for films to come- especially the films who want to take a jab at the vampire genre the right way, without a boy-crazy protagonist like Bella Swan from Twilight.