“You’re sad. You don’t remember what you want. You don’t remember wanting. It passed long ago. And nothing ever changes.”
Before getting started, I already summed my thoughts on this one up pretty well last year, without spoilers, which you can read: here.
After this year’s viewing, I still absolutely love this film.
A few specific things I love… spoilers follow.
I love the performances. It’s no small thing to get to know the characters so well with such sparse dialogue, but these actors make it work. Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi are especially great. I’m sad I haven’t seen him in anything else.
I love the way writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour subverts roles in the movie, not just culturally and traditionally, but within the confines of the story itself.
The pimp is set up in every way as the predator, covered in tigers on his clothing, his jewelry, his tattoo. There’s an aggression in the SEX tattooed on his throat. He even has a tattoo of PAC-MAN about to eat a ghost (itself an example of the role of predator switching back and forth). He has animals of prey mounted on his walls. Multiple characters are victimized by him in short order. He takes whatever he wants. Yet he was the prey all along.
This is the most obvious example. It represents the Girl’s predilection for preying on men who prey on women, and the shift of power.
Less obvious role switching and subversion of expectations includes the fact that Arash is dressed as a cartoonish Dracula, coming across the Girl in the night while high on ecstasy to tell her he is Dracula, all the while she is an actual vampire. Yet, while being a vampire, it is the Girl who lets Arash pierce her with the earrings he stole.
The one dressed for the part isn’t what he looks like, the one you expect to bleed isn’t the one who bleeds, the one who normally has the power is actually helpless.
They are small things that can stand out in a movie that is this quiet and deliberate, where gestures and facial expressions do so much of the storytelling. Where everything is so intentional and reveals the characters to us so impressively.
I love this scene:
She is immortal, we don’t know for sure how old she is, but we can sense the emptiness and loneliness. She’s not sure why, but somehow Arash gets into her head. She dreams of him at night, walking to her out of the light, down into the darkness where she lives forever.
There’s that moment, when she’s alone in the frame, that big space of emptiness behind her. We know Arash is going to enter, but it takes several beats longer than it normally would in another film. When it seems like he is going to enter, he still doesn’t. It makes us feel the anticipation, the waiting, the loneliness. And then he does enter the frame, and they slowly come together.
He exposes his throat to her, having no idea how vulnerable he is in that moment, how dangerous she is. Yet, that’s how vulnerability works. We’re always giving the other the potential to destroy us.
And I love that scene at the end. Arash knows what the Girl has done. We’re not sure if he can go through with it, still run away with her. He gets back in the car, the cat sitting between them. The cat would be hilarious and adorable regardless of context. However, here, it represents what she’s done. It represents what he knows she’s done. It sits there between them, but then, they look at each other.
I love this movie.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes. As I wrote last year, I’d watch this on on repeat.