Persepolis is a French animated film based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of same name, made in 2007. It was written and directed by Satrapi with Vincent Paronnaud. It tells the story of a young Iranian girl and her experiences while growing up in a war torn country. Marji, is brought up in a liberal family who follow an open-minded lifestyle and does not impose rules on their daughter. They give her the freedom to live, but to live responsibly and well aware of her roots.
She sees how her country is torn by the Iranian Revolution. Rules begin to be imposed on the people. Being the free spirit that she is, she finds the restrictions ridiculous, going about her own way of living life. She goes out to buy heavy metal music, wears a leather jacket, and constantly retorts back at her teacher for teaching the wrong ideas.
After being sent abroad to study, she becomes more aware of her Iranian identity as she realizes how people look at her not as an individual person, but as a representative of the country she comes from, which increasingly frustrates her. She tries to hide the fact that she is Iranian. She returns home, as she feels guilty that her countrymen are dying and she is away from home. She feels further aggravated by the rules of the fundamentalists and snaps back at every opportunity. After a disastrous marriage, she returns to France and this time, less in denial of her identity.
Persepolis, on its first watch, had a uniquely blending impact of endearing characters with its cartoon figures and serious undertones of the themes. I enjoyed the quick dialogues, the wit and directness of speech by the characters. I was strongly drawn to the use of animation to show the face of Iran during the revolution. The people suffered under the strict regimen in the name of "Islamic law" and the women faced prejudice and unfavorable attitudes.
The name resounds for its unique vocal quality. I wanted to read it. And then I wanted to watch it. Persepolis gave me a uniquely enriching visual and textual experience. The movie according to me, did as well as the book. The name fascinated me, as I found that it is a historic city in Iran. What drew me closer to the film was the story of this girl, in a state of mental conflict between her freedom and her experience in a country that suppressed and restricted free thought and action. Marjane comes across as a strong symbol of the fighting woman who does not give up, yet is constantly facing an inner trauma of discovering herself and being caught up with preconceived notions of her national identity.
I found in Marjane a spirit that inspires, a drive that pushes above all odds and a strong will to fight back injustice. She questions, challenges, and faces its consequences without fearing its fallbacks. Issues of religion, patriotism, family ideals, trust, love, friendship and betrayal are brought forth beautifully.
The music that is played during times of heightened tension, with no dialogue increases the sense of agitated anxiety one faces when watching the helpless state of the citizens under the repressive rule. The use of black and white to depict the author’s past memories and color to show the present give a stark contrast that reflect the narrator’s mind and how she sees things as she tells us her story.
Watch the film for its uniqueness of reflective narrative and elements of animated story telling with a passion.