Review of ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’

Mansoor M.

Allegorical Iranian horror film interpreted in terms of its political and social meaning, especially around gender oppression – Editors

girlwalks_topppageThe film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” by Ana Lily Amirpour is a highly unusual film especially for an Iranian director. It’s full of allegory just like a good piece of Persian poetry, like a dark tunnel leading to shimmer of light. Here is a brief review by Cinefamily, where I saw the movie:

The review is good and covers technical and cinematic themes but misses many symbolism and allegorical elements, probably due to cultural complexities. The central character is first and foremost an Iranian woman who sets out to put things right in the “Bad City,” where men use and abuse woman. She takes revenge by killing the pimp (who has lot of cliché body art including “jakesh,” which means pimp in Farsi, on his head). She also kills the junkie dad, and scare’s the s**t out of young boy, giving him a lesson in truth telling and goodness.

This is the only the foreground, but the background is just as interesting, with oil rigs, cats and women, bodies in the trenches, all the darkness that black gold has brought for Iran (and the Middle East), and poor families decimated by drugs and prostitution. The black and white picture is telling given the contrasts of our modern era, with extremes of joy and sadness mirroring the gulf between rich and poor, men and women, and sane and healthy.

The central character, the female vampire who lives alone and has no name, represents a class of women that rages against men and haunts blameworthy men. However, not all men are bad. Arash, who is named after a mythical Persian hero from the 8th century Book of Kings (Shahnameh) who saves Iran from an invading army, is one such character that falls in love with the nameless female vampire. He knows that she killed the pimp and later his junkie dad, but he also realizes justice has been served. Arash is OK with this and eventually leave the Bad City with the central character by his side.

The characters are well represented and the acting is good, but what makes this film special is the music, with contemporary rock from Reza Yazdani, Persian classics from Dariush, tube amp guitar riffs, and spaghetti western tunes! There is not much dialogue but the story is well told and that’s a sign of a clear cinematic language. One of the producers was Elijah Woods of “Lord of the Rings,” which makes for a high-quality production.

The contrasts and contradictions of modern Iran are well represented in this film, and there one should ask, where is the revolutionary subject? In this case, the action of the main protagonist, the nameless female vampire directly dealing with oppressive and the retrogressive, could speak for the ultimate desire of Iranian women to put an end to their situation and leave the Bad City behind.


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