Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night opens the 43rd New Directors/New Film series Wednesday night. The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art's annual showcase spotlights some of the best work by emerging filmmakers from around the world. In its 42-year history, the festival has introduced or cemented the status of some of the most familiar and critically acclaimed directors of our time, including Chantal Akerman, Pedro Almodóvar, Darren Aronofsky, Ken Burns, Agnieszka Holland, Wong Kar-Wai, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, and Steven Spielberg.
Sharing her thoughts with FilmLinc Daily ahead of Wednesday night's premiere at MoMA, Amirpour discusses how loneliness motivated her to make her first feature and her unique view on how she equates working with actors and sex.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ana Lily Amirpour, USA, 2014, 107m
Persian with English subtitles
Description: This super-stylish and spellbinding Persian take on the vampire genre doubles as a compact metaphor for the current state of Iran. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature guides us on a dreamlike walk on the wild side, into the nocturnal and sparsely populated underworld of “Bad City,” an Iran of the mind that nevertheless rings true. In a cool and brooding scenario that involves just a handful of characters, an alluring female vampire stalks potential victims with a judgmental eye—but isn’t immune to romantic desire when it presents itself in the form of a young hunk who’s looking for a way out of his dead-end existence. With to-die-for high-contrast black-and-white cinematography and a sexy cast that oozes charisma, horror has seldom seemed so hot.
Responses from Ana Lily Amirpour:
On a mad, mad love of filmmaking:
I was born to do this. Really, it's like, what else can I do? It's “MAD, MAD LOVE.” I was 12 when my dad brought home our first camcorder. I started making movies right then. The only thing I love more is music and dancing. But it's a very close race there.
On the trek from loneliness to A Girl:
I make films to cure my loneliness. Being a human being is such a private and lonely experience, which happens in your mind [and] in your thoughts. They are yours and yours alone, and I think I want others to know my thoughts, to reveal myself to people. I think making a film is the ultimate way to pull people into your mind [and] your dreams. It's the way you can show yourself to people. And this film, A Girl, really is about these chronically lonely people in this town, and this vampire is the loneliest of all… And then suddenly a connection happens. That's the magic. When you find inspiration—when you suddenly want something or someone.
How working with actors is like “having sex”:
I wrote these parts for these actors. I knew all Sheila (Vand) had to do was cut her hair and she'd become an iconic, gamine Joan of Arc-type vampire-hipster. Arash (Marandi) is based in Hamburg, Germany. I Skyped him and told him he was coming to a shitty town in California to be a movie star—he has serious talent. All the roles were written for those particular actors, which is a dream.
You know them [and] you know who they are and it becomes easy in some ways. Each character was really visually striking in some way, like a fairy tale, their hair, costumes… I'm really into the costumery and how much that affects the character and what you see on film. I think working with each actor is different. We all watched a certain group of movies that I'm referencing and looking at, but then each one is going to end up in a type of intimate relationship with me. It's really like sex in so many ways; like I'm having sex with each of them, and I have to figure out what gets them off, so to speak. It's really the best analogy I can think of. And yeah, we did a lot of rehearsals and had lots and lots of conversations about the characters. Then we showed up and let it bloom onset.
On the challenges and a tragedy:
The film is the big challenge, all of it. It's a huge amorphous living thing that you jump inside of, and you have to move with it. It's ever changing, and you have to be loose and accept it—like in a very Bruce Lee way—[in order to] see what's really there, what you have, and then make it work from there. I don't ever really see obstacles as obstacles, they just are the path. But the one thing that happened right before our Sundance premiere was the tragic death of our production designer Sergio De La Vega. He never got to see the film, and he was such an enormous part of the film. We lost him so soon, and [because] he didn't see the film, that does make me feel sad.
On her next project:
My next script is called The Bad Batch. It's a cannibal love story set in a post apocalyptic Texan wasteland. There's going to be muscle men and amputees set against a desert backdrop. I want to shoot anamorphic color and have a look and feel of the ’80s and ’90s with an eclectic soundtrack that's part techno, part Western, and part ’90s pop. It's my Mad Max meets Gummo. It's going to be really weird and romantic and also very violent.