Written and directed by Marjane Satrapi in collaboration with Vincent Paronnaud, Persepolis is based on Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. I must admit that although this has been on my radar for a few years I’ve always been put off by the animation, so I’m glad I’ve been made to watch it for my film challenge because it was brilliant.
A coming of age story set against the background of the Iranian Revolution, it’s both harrowing and exuberant. Marjane is 9 when the film opens in 1978, a precocious child who wants to be a prophet and obsesses over Bruce Lee. Growing up in comfort with her liberal, politically active family they have high hopes for a better society post the revolution.
But as Iran becomes more hostile under Ayatollah Khomeini, devastating reflections on freedom and the repression of women are told through chilling everyday moments that somehow manage to include humour – Marjane loves teen culture and we see her trying to buy bootlegged Western music (there’s a lot of fun with music) but then we’re shown a human hand in a bombed out building; her mother being obscenely shouted at.
Her parents know that one day their spirited daughter is going to attract trouble and so send her to stay with friends in Vienna. Austria offers freedom but this is as much a story of displacement as anything else. The animation is mostly in black and white and disarmingly simple, no one is ‘foreign’, whatever nationality or city they are in.
This was such an elegant film, funny and touching, and very human; when it had finished I immediately wanted to know more. I don’t want to give to much away, but if you haven’t already watched it please do!