Director: Marjane Satrapi, Winshluss
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, François Jerosme, Sean Penn
Runtime: 96 minutes
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis, the film version is a 2007 animated auto-biographical coming-of-age French film based on Marjane Satrapi’s life. Both written and directed by Satrapi herself, the film’s black-and-white animation is stark and deceptively simple. Yet, it conveys so many emotions at once, making it a high-class film about the Iranian Revolution and her story.
This Oscar-nominated film story takes place in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution when Iran was undergoing conflicts within different social classes. Due to the widening gap between the classes, the people of Iran, including Marjane’s family, supported the Revolution against the Shah dynasty and its monarch ruling country. Due to her family’s wealthy background, Marjane gets to experience the war and draws on firsthand experiences of her account against the war.
First and foremost, the animation style is unique and one of a kind and probably what gets its attention. Unlike Disney and Dreamwork’s vibrant and colorful style, the black-and-white, two-dimensional, simple drawing is what stands out the most as it amplifies its meaning through its simplification of the pictures. Because of its simple 2D illustration, not only does the film prevents its message from getting distracted with its vibrant textures and colors, it reflects the complications in class differences, moral uncertainties, politics, and history from a child’s perspective. Even though Persepolis is an animated film, the film gears towards adults as it deals with complex social issues, allowing viewers to feel a sense of realism in the plot and develop a personal connection to both the story and its characters.
The film contains many warm and comedic moments as Marjane brings her charming personality to the screen. From her childhood to her teenage years, the film shows how she forges her unique identity in society. Usually, if this story were from a Western perspective, despite the oppressive government trying to suppress the character’s identity, it would have focused more on the feminist view needed to liberate one’s own identity against the oppressive government. However, what made it different and fresh from other Hollywood, Western movies was that viewers get a direct glance into Marjane’s viewpoint as it graphically dramatizes her in-between state. She loves her country and personally has a religious outlook. Yet, at the same time, her progressive stance against Western cultures shows how she struggles to forge an identity and tries to figure out her identity as she grows up. It complicates Iranian women’s view as oppressed victims who require liberation, making this film truly one of a kind.
Moreover, after watching this film, viewers get rid of stereotypes and misconceptions of the Middle East. In fact, Marjane Satrapi said it herself during an interview, “I wanted to put things straight when I arrived in French. So many people do not know the difference between Iran and Arab”, trying to show the audiences by providing a complex view of Iranian society and dispel the notion that Iran is a country ruled only by religious extremists.
Overall, Persepolis reminds viewers to be thankful for their freedom of speech and that people should not take things for granted. It achieves to balance out both the light-hearted moments with dark, sinister instances. Like all adolescents and teenagers, romantic love interests, family and friends, hope, reaching rock bottom and rising to the occasion, this film is not just a story about Marjane, but contains a universal message of love and growing up.
Despite the film’s static images, it is filled with warmth, surprise, humor, and wit, making Persepolis an emotionally powerful film about a young girl trying to figure out her individuality in a complicated world.