After dropping out of college as a biology major, Ana Lily Amirpour went to art school in San Francisco and film school at UCLA. She signed early with Hollywood agents and managers, but while in Germany making a short film for the Berlinale Talent Campus, she decided the studio route was not what she wanted to do.
“I ended up not making those Hollywood films and I am so glad. They were not my pure soul matter. In Germany, I got to sit and think about the shit that I love. I thought, I’m going to write something where everything people do and say turns me on,” Amirpour said.
In less than a year, she completed production on A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a western? Noir?–the film could be classified as several genres–vampire film set in Iran. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014.
Amirpour was born in England, but her family moved to Miami when she was young and then to Bakersfield, California (where most of A Girl was filmed.) Amirpour said she grew up watching a variety of films and music videos. “I watched the making of the Thriller video about a thousand times.” She also made her own shorts, including a slumber party slasher pic that she filmed on her dad’s Sony Sport video camera.
She remembers watching a lot of horror films from the age of nine to 14. “I watched The Exorcist, Faces of Death, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I was also going to the operating room with my orthopedic surgeon dad. I wanted to see surgeries. I learned that most are quite boring since they’re anthroscopic. I wanted to see an amputation,” she says.
Shot in black and white, the cinematography creates a bleak landscape, which brings Bad City, a town with drug dealers, prostitutes, and shady characters, to life. The Girl (Sheila Vand), wears an Iranian headdress, which flows down to her ankles and fittingly looks more like a cape. In a feminist twist, the Girl’s only victims are men (or boys) who she thinks deserves their fate because of the way they’ve treated women.
The Girl crosses paths with Arash (Arash Marandi) late one Halloween night. Ironically, Arash is dressed as Dracula, but instead of making him another victim, the Girl seems to see an ally in him.
Many of the reviews lauded the film for its feminist point of view, but Amirpour says she didn’t approach the film with that intention. “I don’t think of telling a story to turn an idea on its head. It’s about characters and what they’re going through. In this case, it’s really about loneliness. A vampire is the loneliest, most isolated cut-off type of create,” she said.
The best part of the film is the twist when Arash and the Girl’s relationship is threatened due to the Girl’s actions (of vampirism.) After hearing so much hype about the film, I wasn’t as amazed or enthralled with the film as I expected. I think it’s worth seeing, but other than the feminist take so many are applying to it and the setting, it didn’t seem that different from other vampire films made by women, namely Near Dark by Kathryn Bigelow and Trouble Every Day by Claire Denis. Both of these films feature women as vampires, rather than women being the victim or the love interest/obsession of a vampire. Much like in both those films, the term vampire is never used in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
Amirpour cites her biggest love in film is fantasy. David Lynch and Tarantino are directors she admires because they create their own worlds, which include magic and fantasy, and provide limitless storytelling.
Her next project is The Bad Batch, a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texas wasteland. Producer Megan Ellison has teamed up with Amirpour to provide funding.