The movie, which combines not only several countries, but also a number of genres, directed and written by Ana Lily Amirpour, is teeming with controversies. The indefinite article “a” in the title stays away from concretisation by alluding to the global nature of the problem of abuse that any girl can face. This idea is reiterated by the fact that this “girl” remains unnamed throughout the whole movie. Seen as a feministic response, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night touches upon themes such as religion, moral degradation, gender inequality, addiction and the reversed parent-child relationship.
The gloomy “Bad City” is a place which gives shelter to all scary things in the world that can happen. The ghosts of the people who are devoid of hope are wandering aimlessly there. There are neither little princes to watch the Indian red sunset nor fairs selling light pink cotton candy. The movie is in black and white, but here these colours are not binaries, but contextual synonyms of the same thing – death – physical and spiritual. A black-and-white movie made in 2014? Welcome to postmodernity, as they say. Rap in Farsi and Hello by Lionel Richie are yet further examples of the intercultural narrative that wreaks havoc in this film.
The seemingly strange combination of vampires and hamburgers inevitably gives the movie a sense of postmodern miscellaneous structure, some kind of magical realism. Because let’s face it: vampires are supposed to drink blood, not munch on burgers, right?
The moment when Arash, the protagonist, pierces the Girl’s ears is a turning point in the romantic, yet far from lovey-dovey story. The murderous vampire puts off the mask of a monster that makes others bleed (and die) so that she herself becomes the vulnerable one.
The Iranian drama challenges the idea that being old equals being in control of your emotions and obsessions. The serious drug addict is not the young son, but the father whose hallucinations make him see his wife who left him in the eyes of their cat. However, the “drug” scenes don’t allude to Requiem for a Dream (2000), because they are not emotionally overwhelming in such an obvious way. The highly uncomfortable feeling comes from the fact there is nothing comforting – parents are not always the stable buttresses their children sometimes expect them to be.
The idea of sadness is also reconsidered. It is now regarded as an intrinsic part of forgetting what one longs for rather than simply the implausibility of achieving a dream. It is an emotional detachment of the inner self.
When Arash talks with the Girl, he points out: “Sad songs hit the spot, don't they?". Sure they do. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night hits where it hurts.
The movie demands and rejects any kind of interpretation at the same time in a sense that the viewer shouldn’t be influenced by others’ readings of it. Rather, they should decode the art work individually because at the end of the day this is its aim.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is showing at FACT from 22 May. Booking information coming soon.