Directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Sony Pictures Classics, 2007
By Eva Bowering
The autobiographical Persepolis is based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name, and explores the author’s growing up during the Iranian revolution and the changes in her family life as Islamic fundamentalists take power.
Content-wise, Persepolis is very dark, but it never comes across as overly brooding or depressing. It tells a story of the horror and effects of living in a war-torn environment, how to manage in a place where thoughts, beliefs, changes, and personal choices are savagely oppressed. Persepolis could very well be considered a film with a solely feminist perspective, yet is does not focus only on women, but the society as a whole — with Marjane at the core of it all, growing up from the start, alongside her politically active family.
The film focuses wholeheartedly on Marjane’s independence, and rebellion, which inevitably ends up taking her to Austria, where she is exposed to a very different culture and lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily prove useful to her, as she struggles with painful relationships, living away from her family, taking care of herself, as well as being immersed in a culture with an unfamiliar world view. After suffering a crisis, Marjane is forced to head back home to Iran, no questions asked. She then becomes depressed with the realization that the Islamic Iranian government has become even more oppressive during her time in Europe. She finally manages to pick herself up and study fine arts at the local university — though that certainly doesn’t stop her protests towards the political situation, and her family’s fear forces her to emigrate to Paris, leaving them for the second and perhaps final time. That Marjane is torn between two separate cultures is what fascinates me the most about this story. After her initial departure, she has a difficult time adjusting to both Vienna and Iran. It’s almost a power struggle between her and what type of life she must decide to live.
Despite the hardships portrayed, Persepolis adds a good portion of humor, and you certainly grow to love Marjane and her stubbornness. A great deal of humor is due to the role that Marjane’s Grandmother plays in her life, which is that of a powerful, liberated woman, who tells it like it is, even while she has been living in a country that can’t satisfy her true beliefs and values. This woman greatly influences Marjane, and the decisions that she makes in her life. Her Grandmother is the type of woman who doesn’t back down, and can hold you up and support you through every choice you make; she is like the person in your life whom you will remember forever for guiding you in the right direction. It’s the type of story that needed to be told, and has never been told. This is certainly not your usual coming-of-age story, and Persepolis depicts it beautifully in animation and honest storytelling.