Watch IN BED: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Words by Shana Chandra
The opening scene of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) is both comforting and disconcerting all at once. It opens in black and white with a James Dean-esque figure clad in classic white T and jeans, donning aviators and smoking a cigarette in his full allure. He nervously keeps watch on something shielded from our view via a dilapidated wooden scaffolding. What’s he looking at? A drug deal? Something sinister? The scene immediately triggers our synapses to the familiar, the lexicon of all our Old Hollywood film clips thrusting through. But once our bad boy is established in these opening seconds, a flick is switched. And rather than employing any more Classic Hollywood tropes, our hero rescues his cat from behind the wooden fence and carries her through the streets of a derelict, bleak, industrial small-town to the swaying beats of pioneering band, Kiosk’s Iranian folk music mixed with rock.
That’s the intoxicating mood of Ana Lily Amirpour’s film, described by her as the ‘Iranian love-child of Sergio Leone and David Lynch, with Nosferatu as a babysitter.’ In this way the film plunges elements of the old world straight into the current, so they become compliant bedfellows. Amirpour plays with pop-iconography, film genres and gestures that we know, and then delivers us the droll and unexpected by twisting them through a Persian and feminist lens. Just as our bad boy Arash (Arash Marandi) turns out to have a heart; caring for his heroin addicted father and beloved feline, our heroine when we see her is a hooded stalker who keeps watch and surprises us too. The Girl, we never know her name, (played perfectly by actress and performance artist Sheila Vand) has observations that are of a more sinister kind; she watches as chic prostitute Atii, (Mozhan Marnò) gives local drug-dealer and her pimp, Saeed, (Dominic Rains) fellatio in the front seat of his parked car.
Later we see the Girl, Breton T and trainer wearing, listening to records in her poster covered room, lining her eyes with eyeliner and coating her lips with lipstick – a typical teenager getting ready we think, that is until we see what it’s in preparation for. It’s to avenge Saeed, which she does by luring him and then seducing him, in the very same way Atti did; by licking his finger. That is until she bites that finger off, caresses his lips with it, and quickly drains him of blood with her teeth. Our heroine turns out to be a vampiress, a skateboarding, cape wearing figure, who stalks men at night, avenging them Promising Young Women style, but way more stylishly. The Girl’s victims are always men - a homeless man on the street, the street boy whom she decides to let go before giving him the warning she’ll be watching him all his life, so that we know that those she drains aren’t merely chosen to satiate her bloodthirst. But still, we’re left wondering, What is her agenda? Or as Atti asks her, ‘What are you?’ We see another side to what she is the night Arash dress’s up as Dracula for a costume party, complete with his own set of (false) vampire teeth, where he swallows a hit of ecstasy from Saeed’s stash. High and distracted by a streetlight, he meets the Girl in the streets, and in one of the most tender scenes of the movie, too drug-addled to walk, she pushes him via skateboard all the way back to her place. Here, the tension of her predation known to us, she puts on ‘Death’ by White Lies on her record player and the two nestle against each other’s throats as a disco ball glitters them with its shimmer. From then on, the movie begins to pose another question, one ultimately tied to the first, the quintessential vampiric conundrum –will she love, will she leave, or will she suck?