Writer & Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marno, Dominic Rains
Running Time: 101 minutes
UK Cinema Release date: 22 May 2015
This small town tale of other worldliness will totally engulf you.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature is shot entirely in black and white and exudes a unique sense of style and atmosphere. The girl in the film’s title refers to a skateboarding Iranian vampire who stalks the streets of Bad City by night. If that’s not a great opening gambit, then I don’t know what is. Bad City lives up to its name, a town of drug dealers, prostitutes and general decay. A handsome young man named Arash lives with his drug addicted father and is trying to rise above the filth of Bad City. However, drug dealer and pimp, Saeed, does not intend to make that easy for him. In lieu of his father’s drug payments, Saeed takes Arash’s prized car, sparking a chain of events that ultimately draws Arash and the girl towards one another.
An Iranian film, shot in America, part western, part horror, part surrealist, it mixes numerous genres and influences to create its own fantasy world. Although this may sound like it shouldn’t work, it blatantly defies your expectations. The picture seamlessly comes together in a strong, inventive and coherent film that makes your lips curl and your heart bleed. The story is well crafted and with minimal dialogue, the characters instantly resonate in your consciousness. There is a simplicity that propels the story forward and allows you to invest in the world you are presented with.
Even when Arash and the girl meet, this does not become a normal love story. Things aren’t that simple, especially when the girl in question has blood sucking tendencies. After seeing Saeed mistreating Atti (the local prostitute), the girl seductively claims her next victim. There is some sense of morality, in that the girl appears to kill only those who really, aren’t particularly nice people. Given the film’s brooding and dark nature, there is still a sense of lightness sprinkled throughout, creating characters to relish and moments to knowingly smile along to.
Director Amirpour’s love and knowledge of music is at the core of the film, as she powerfully combines her images and music to create memorable and intriguing moments. At times it will feel as if you are observing a slow moving photograph, allowing you the opportunity to pause and drink in every sip of the frame. The vision of the girl; her chador hanging down, standing on a skateboard and pushing herself along a wall, wedged itself in my mind.
Similarly, a scene of the girl and Arash together in her apartment, music thumping between them, draws you totally in to their intimate world. It will have you holding your breath to see what will happen next. With a small, core cast, each actor delivers a performance that fits the tone of the story perfectly. Sheila Vand plays the girl to haunting effect. She is sorrowful, alluring and distant all at once. Mozhan Marno (as prostitute Atti) creates a vision of sadness and hope against the dark backdrop of her life. It would be unfair to pick out any one actor over another, as each one etches themselves on your memory in their own way.
The film’s style, humour and bleakness hit all the right notes and create a feeling of disenchanted, trapped youth; characters old before their time. Ana Lily Amirpour is a unique voice and she tells a story that feels personal, fantastical and yet totally relatable. The girl who walks home alone at night, is a dark vision of a heightened reality and a fairy tale of sorts, just not one you will be telling your kids at bedtime.
8.5 out of 10