Let's Talk Film! A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Let's Talk Film! A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

A review on a feminist vampire, spaghetti western, Iranian noir film. Yeah. You read right.

Welcome to Films You Haven't Seen but Should, film reviews dedicated to the unexpected film gems out there. These reviews will work in themes, meaning that with each theme there will be an article dedicated to a film that fits within the theme. Everyone with me? Yay!

(PSA: There are NO SPOILERS in this review! Read with ease!)

Our very first theme is: Female Filmmakers. Gracing us with the first film to review and analyze is Iranian filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour with her incredible, haunting western/vampire feminist film, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Amirpour, 2014) (available on Netflix).

This film follows a veiled vampire, The Girl (Sheila Vand), riding through the streets of Bad City, preying on men who objectify women. In this bold feminist film, Amirpour turns stereotypes of female security and safety on their heads as now the man must be afraid to walk home alone at night. The title leads us to believe that violence is waiting for the girl who walks home alone at night, but in actuality, it is the man who must fear for his safety. This is the initial irony of the film, but there are many more to come. The Girl meets an interesting character, a troubled James Dean-esque boy named Arash (Arash Marandi), who crosses paths with the justice-driven vampire.

The most obviously striking elements about this film are the setting and color, or rather, lack of color. Amirpour decides to pay homage to the past of spaghetti westerns while enhancing the spine-tingling ominous presence of night and shadows as she presents her film in heavily contrasted black and white. This immerses the audience in a delirious reality, one devoid of comprehension or a broad perspective. What we see is a frightening, and limited scope.

Amirpour inserts an initial irony through the contrast between the color and setting. This story takes place in a dystopian city called “Bad City”, which was actually filmed in California.

The palm trees, the elegant, suburban housing complexes, and the classic convertibles are all things the audience will most likely understand or recognize. However, these recognizable elements are filtered through black and white, shrouded in shadow and flooded with fluorescent light. The lack of color separates the audience from the setting, which is ironic, because for the majority of the American audience, the Californian setting in one of the most recognizable and understood settings in film. Not only this, but the film is in Farsi, which establishes another extreme or irony, and further distances the audience from the film’s reality. Just when we think we can fully connect to the characters, or to the story, there something that isolates us. Our isolation is meant to reflect the fear and confusion the characters feel in this film, and it does.

Another irony is found in the conflicted realities: the realities espoused by the men, and the reality presented by The Girl. In one of the very first shots, Arash’s (Marandi) father Hossein (Marshall Maneesh) shoots up heroin while the TV plays in the background. The man on the screen is warning all the women watching that while their good fortune of finding a husband is commendable, their fortunes may turn and their husbands leave them for younger women. These things, the man on the screen tells us, happen. I wonder if the man on the screen would say these things if he knew a man-eating, female vampire lurked the streets of Bad City.

The meeting between Arash (Marandi) and The Girl (Vand) is almost humorous in its

irony because Arash is wearing a Dracula costume. He looks at The Girl and says, “I’m Dracula. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.” Oh, Arash, if you only knew you were talking to an actual vampire.

The two perspectives, and subsequently, two realities play against one another: the male perspective against The Girl’s perspective. This film challenges the status quo, and represents the male perspective in deep falsehood and archaic patriarchy. The Girl (Vand) holds the true voice. She reflects Truth in this film with every encounter she has with a character.

The Girl’s (Vand) power is represented through the cinematography, as it not only empowers The Girl (Vand), but also the audience. It is important to understand that we are not uncomfortable voyeurs in this film, but we are the lurking vampire. While we gaze into a scene through circular windows of a convertible,

limiting our view by the confines of that window, and blinded by the glares of light that pierce the shot, we are invited, not only to follow the characters, but also to stalk them. The camera hovers right over the shoulder of a character. When the character senses a presence, they spin around. Who do they find? The Girl.

The vampire is waiting, stalking, watching. The camera also waits, stalks and watches. Thus the camera, and by extension, the audience is the vampire, and the predator.

Amirpour’s feminism speaks volumes here, as the female in the narrative does not distract the male lead or the audience by her erotic beauty, but guides the very fabric of the story we follow. She does not strike eroticism in the hearts of the male characters, or the audience, but fear.

I hope this next tidbit of information does not disappoint, but this film is not a fast-paced thriller. On the contrary, it is a slow pause. The pacing of the film is like a close-up on somebody’s mouth slowly releasing a stale breath, breath that was held in for too long. It is intimate in its quiet. In this way, Amirpour ironically works against the genre expectations the audience has and presents a uniquely calm, and intimate rendition.

The pacing of this film is not unlike the film Stranger than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch.

In fact, the use of black and white, slow pace, irony and isolated relationships create a nice comparison between these two films.

Another comment on the cinematography and camerawork in this film is how smooth it is. The camera glides just as effortlessly as The Girl does. Amirpour captures the unexpected, as she fills entire shots with minute moments, such as stirring sugar into tea, or shears trimming a bush. By doing so, Amirpour quietly drops scenes like pieces of evidence for the audience, imploring us to put them together and make sense of them.

The motionless calm is noticed when The Girl (Vand) takes Arash (Marandi) back to her home. Their meeting is electric in the silence and opportunity for violence as The Girl (Vand) tilts Arash’s (Marandi) head back and gazes at his supple neck.

His life is available for her to take, in one fell swoop. Whether she takes his life or not, I won’t say. That’s for you to find out.

Amirpour’s film is a spaghetti western, feminist vampire film written and performed in Farsi, based in California. It is an incredibly stylized, silent political commentary that depicts the crossroads of Iranian culture from the traditional to the modern through extreme ironies. The Girl is not a villain, and neither is she the hero, but she is our mirror. She mirrors the character’s movements in the film, and meets one horror with another, their horror with a horror of her own. This film looks the audience dead in the eye and says, “What? What are you looking at me for? I was only copying you.” It is as if the film is saying the greatest horrors are the ones hidden deep within us, the ones we have already committed ourselves.

Cover Image Credit: IMDB

Popular Right Now

​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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