Film Review: Persepolis (Spoilers)

An awesome piece of work, adapted by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud from Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same title, ‘Persepolis’ is Satrapi’s part comic, part animated autobiography, focusing on the 1979 Iranian Revolution and how it affected her and her family. It’s intensely political yet warm, engaging, funny and entertaining. It has moments of horror and despair, but offers enormous insight into the social differences between western Europe and not just the fundamentalist caricature of Iran, but the much more liberal and emancipated nation which lies underneath the Islamic Republic. It’s no wonder it got the attention of highly political actors like Sean Penn to do the English voiceover for her father, and he’s not the only big name attached (Gena Rowlands & Catherine Deneuve round out the stellar English language cast).

It’s a fascinating examination of how people can stay individual under extremist rule, and is an oddly enchanting look at Satrapi’s life without the conventions you’d expect using most modern animation techniques; Persepolis is defiantly true to the graphic novel. And yet it works – by making the story the priority and not the animation, you’re left to focus on Satrapi’s life as a child (with her obsessions with Bruce Lee, the Bee Gees and Iron Maiden), and then as an adolescent – the often funnier but largely murkier period in Vienna. Particularly upon her return to Tehran you’re left in no doubt about how difficult it is for freedom to survive there, following the autocracy of the Shah through to the extremism of the revolution and its mad war with Iraq; the people have their ideals but there’s little oxygen for them to take hold. Satrapi finds the reverse true in Europe – plenty of oxygen but few ideals. The Marjane of the film comes across as very lonely indeed, but in her continuing defiance an inspiration for us all. Sometimes simple is best, and it’s highly recommended. 8/10

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