The emergence of artcinema entered the world of film just after the Second World War, it prevailedwhen the decline of Hollywood Cinema was dropping, since then, various NewWaves such as the French, Japanese and Italian was introduced all over theEuropean continent in the late 1950s and 60s (Bordwell, 1985: 230). ArtCinema films are known as films that aremarginalized, low-costing, and artistic which often differs from Hollywood’s”classical narrative”, it differs in a sense that it does not follow animagined cinematic mainstream based on a “classical model (linear cause-effect narration,non-intrusive style)” and “high concept (simplestorytelling, easily marketable idea)”. Art Cinema’s initial popularity isoften associated with great auteurs such as Fellini, Godard, Antonioni, andBergman as they created what is known as “authorial expression” by opposingclassical structures of Hollywood film. An example of an art Cinema film in thepast would be “Bicycle Thieves (1948)”and another good example of contemporary art cinema would be “A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night(2014)”. David Bordwell discusses art Cinema as a Mode of Film practice,how it tends to differentiate the narrative styles from Hollywood films(Film Criticism 4p.
56–63.) Steve Neale talks about Art Cinema as an institution whichexplores the history of art cinema in the post-war development of artcinema. (Screen 22,1981: p.11–39.)A Girl Walks Home Alone atNight by Ana Lily Amipour is an Iranian film based in “Bad City”, it followsArash, a young man who lives with his father, whom is a drug addict. Throughoutthe movie, we see Arash transform into a caring, young adult, into anemotionless drug dealer, along the way he meets a woman, oblivious to the factthat she is a vampire. The diegesis then turns into a twisted love storybetween the two characters. The movie is a black and white picture film thatadopts a comedic horror genre in which gender and class stereotypes arechallenged and subverted, it goes against stereotypical gender roles by placingthe female character in a role where she is feared and made the men moresubmissive which challenged not only Hollywood’s classical narrative, but alsoeveryday sexism within the film industry.
The movie does an excellent job of juxtaposing its culture to that ofHollywood cinema and pulling away from Hollywood canons whilst still being verysuccessful.Realism is an importantfeature of art cinema. Bordwell (ArtCinema as Mode of Film Practise, p.
718) suggests “the art cinema definesitself as a realistic cinema” using “real locations” and “real problems” as away to oppose Hollywood canons. Julian Petley also points out the same ideathat “the mise-en-scene in art cinema may emphasise verisimilitude of behaviourand of space: for instance the utilisaiton of real locations andnon-professional actors in neo-realist films” (Petley 1999: 108). A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night uses reallocations such as outside and indoors due to art cinema film budget being lowin comparison to Hollywood films, this effect allows a more realistic visualimpact. The film also relates to real problems such as gender exploitation,prostitution and drugs which is commonly associated with those of a lowerclass, however it also highlighted the side of the lower class where childrenare without shelter and left on the streets, this is seen when Sheila Vand (thevampire) confronts a little kid on the street in a frightening manner. Aclose-up is shown of her in an angry, hostile expression which is verysuggestive and symbolic, the close up allows the audience to see the darknessof her the darkness she brings creating tension and presence.
This relates toart cinema, more specifically Steve Neale’s quote “Art films tend to be markedby stress on visual style” (Neale 1981 :13), as it focuses on stylistic excess (visual and aural) rather thannarrative and beyondthat which is strictly required to advance the narrative, juxtaposed againstHollywood’s entertainment and commerce. As the movie first begins, we see Arashstealing a cat and bringing it home without a reason, and throughout the moviethe cat does nothing but accompany the characters in the film, this is anexample of a restricted narrative. As art cinema is less tied to Hollywoodfilms, it caused an enigmatic effect (Barthe theory), allowing audiences to seea different side of creativity in art cinema. It also allows audiences to seeclarity, simplicity (Hollywood) versus ambiguity, complexity (Art cinema).Bordwell states that “the art cinemas is classical in its reliance upon psychologicalcausation: characters and their effects on one another remain central… thecharacters of art cinema lack defined and desired goals”. In Arash’s casewe see his personality advance differently from the beginning of the movie.
Atfirst he works, trying to provide for his sick father, later in the film heprogresses to be a drug dealer, leaving his father and giving him no remorse,stealing from other people such as a diamond earring and the money from a deadcharacter which Vand kills, we are unsure what Arash does with the things hesteals, however, as he caught feelings for the vampire, he presented her withthe stolen earrings for her to wear. When Arash’s father dies by the hands ofVand, Arash has a mental breakdown, and even till the end, he doesn’t know thatthe killer is the woman he loves. It tells the audience that the film is acreative, yet weird love story between two misfits who evidently shouldn’t betogether. We are also unsure of what intentions or goals the Vampire has. Thefirst crime scene we saw was Vand stalking a pimp who is high on drugs. Thisallowed her to take advantage of his sexual gratification, she shifts heraction and seduces him, and he doesn’t understand who she is or what she isuntil it was too late for him, he dies a horrible death and the girl walks outempty handed, again we are unsure of what her intentions are which reinforcesBordwell’s statement of “lack defined anddesired goals”.
This also relates to”in terms of subject matter… the art film tends to deal with real contemporaryproblems such as ‘alienation’ or ‘lack of communication'” (Petley 1999:108, following Bordwell, 1985) as in the film, thereis little communication amongst the characters, instead, Amirpour relies on hervisionary force as a filmmaker, with massive payoff in the end. The theme ofalienation is also true to this movie, we see Arash, and his father, separate, andthey both live in a town, filled with bad vibes and isolation. The movietackles real contemporary problems such as the real-world issues of prejudiceand how some men mistreat women. Amirpour creates an immortal vampire to spreadthe message of feminism, it allows audiences to question their preconceivedmind-sets.Steve Neale states that “Art films tend to be marked…by a suppression of action in the Hollywood sense, by a consequent stress oncharacter rather than plot and by an interiorisation of dramatic conflict”(Neale 1981:13-14).
This statement easily relates to the movie as Amirpourcreates a character (Arash) who faces a significant crisis in his life. Sheplaces the character in a “boundary position, which is common in art cinemanarration… the boundary situation is the centre around which conventions ofpsychological realism begin to work” (K.Courtney, 2011 p.176 European Culture in Diversity). For example, in themovie the crisis begins when Arash steals money from the pimp and leaves hisfather to look after himself. This crisis motivates the protagonist to expresstheir mental state and allows audiences to pay attention to his emotionalreactions rather than storyline.Bordwell suggests “The art cinema developed a range of mise-en-scenecues for expressing character mood: static pictures, covert glances…emotion-filled landscapes” (Bordwell, 1985:208).
A strong example within the film of these landscapes is the horizon of the skyand land at night, this stylistic approach is to resemble the isolation andemptiness of the ghost town, but also to represent Vand, the vampire. It emphasisesher dark presence and her that her action to address feminism is free. Anothergood example of the landscape is the industrial setting. Shots of oil rigspumping black gold are carefully placed. The oil rig is symbolic to Vand.
It isa connotation that Vand is trying to remove darkness from the city byeliminating how dark men can be, just like how oil rigs remove oil from theground. An example of static picturesand covert glances would be in Vand’s bedroom. She leads Arash there while heis high on drugs staring at the light, the vampire plays a song “Death” byWhite Lies and as the song plays in the background, Arash creeps up behind thegirl, she then slowly turns around and looks as if she is going to bite hisneck, but instead he gently places her head on his chest, all happening at asnail’s pace (Jon Lisi, 2015). Thisscene was static for a good 30-1 minute time frame which allows audiences tofeel more connected to the characters. This all relates to art cinema as itfocuses more on scenery and character, a convention of art cinemas.
In conclusion art cinema is something different towatch, it goes against Hollywood Film conventions which is not common forpeople to watch, thus making it quite challenging. It focuses more oncreativity and art, rather than entertainment and commerce. This film, which isvery unpredictable yet beautiful is more about emotional reaction andatmosphere than narrative. Amirpour uses stylistic devices and realism todefine art cinema in her perspective.
Show tries to address the message offeminism, and uses Vand as a social context to get the message across that drug,prostitution and most importantly how some women are treated in today’s society. “There is something greater and deeper to artcinema, than marketability” (J.v.
Dolep.5) this quote summarizes what the category of art cinema is. From theperspective of Amirpour, art cinema for her was not for commercial profit, shelooked beyond that and let her passion drive her art such as her inspirationfrom David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977).There are certain things that film directors do that cannot be measured withmoney but with passion.