In this haunted and haunting film, Amirpour mixes influences and her own unique vision to create something genuinely fascinating and hypnotic. Some people are calling this the first Iranian vampire western and that’s really only part of the picture. Sheila Vand is astoundingly great as the lonely, existentially despairing vampire; her performance is almost entirely wordless, but she is able to be deeply vulnerable as the film explores her isolation and genuinely frightening when she unleashes her inner violence. Her hunting ground is a strange, desolate slum area right out of a spaghetti western. The male lead is a young man desperate to escape the slum and his hopeless situation there. He’s wonderfully played by Arash Marandi and his plotline is right out of film noir and, here we hit a key theme of the film, he knows it. When he wears his sunglasses, lights his cigarette and stalks down the street, he is both part of a film that is influenced by James Dean and a character that is influenced by James Dean. His story is reminiscent of nothing so much as Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (which isn’t a vampire film, but doesn’t the title sound like one?) and even as we see that, he sees it as well. This film is both an instantly iconic and mythical one and a film about people who long to be iconic and are busy trying to mythologize themselves. It’s shot in gorgeous, moody, evocative black and white and packed with images I’ll never forget; there’s a scene with a skateboard that has a shot in it that’s one of the most striking I’ve ever seen. And the music is strange, striking and perfect as well. Anyway, long enough I’ve gone on. It’s Amirpour’s debut and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. What we have here is a genuinely great film, a true masterpiece, a perfect cinematic vision. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – melancholy, gorgeous, hypnotic film is a film about loneliness, the longing for meaning and the search for personal identity. It’s also about a vampire. And it’s a perfect work of art. 4 stars.