I believe its possible and probable that most Americas know little about the Iranian Revolution. At the least they have no idea where Iran is, and if someone asked them “where is Iran?” they would probably tell them in the park. The slightly more informed know vaguely where Iran is, that they had a revolution, and took some American hostages. The majority I hope should understand that the Iranians over through the American-backed Shah, and then established an Islamic Republic. I fell into the last category, but after watching “Persepolis” I feel I can understand this country in a much greater way.
The story starts with Marjane in an airport in Paris trying to board a flight to Tehran, which she is barred from. She then proceeds to reflect on her childhood in Tehran amidst the riots which proceeded the Shahs overthrow. Marjane is just a child who loves Bruce Lee and wants to be the next Prophet. However, her family is the center of the secular opposition to the Shah with her uncle being a prominent socialist intellectual. Marjane is taken up in the revolutionary fever and idolizes her uncle who was tortured in prison. After the Shah is overthrown, the country enters a new wave of optimism things seem to be on the up and up. However, this all changes when the radical Shiite clerics win 99.9% of the vote, and things begin to change fast. Women are forced to wear the burka, work and play separate from the men, and adhere strict behavioral standards. War soon engulf the nation as Sunni Iraq invades, and for the next decade a brutal fight ensues in which around 750,000 Iranians died. Marjane however, is forced to leave after she insults the modesty laws. Her family sends her to Austria to study. Here she experiences adolescence and young adulthood, yet after a bad relationship leaves her homeless she awakes to the loneliness of being apart from her native land. She then returns to Iran, and finishes her studies, undergoing bouts of depression, and an unhappy marriage. However, after a divorce she is forced to flee Iran permanently, and the story ends after a conversation with her grandmother, who is a mentor to Marjane.
The story is at once informative, funny, and deeply meaningful. A family and a country is caught up in their new found freedom only to see it taken away by repressive religion. Marjane separated then from her country experiences difficultly finding her identity and is lost between the Western isolated freedom of Vienna and the family-filled yet repressive Iran. However, I feel that the 1st and 2nd acts of the film are stronger and more interesting, the 2nd in Vienna drags slightly, compared to the scenes in Iran. Marjane is stuck between her desire for the comfort of her family and her country, and her desire for respect and freedom. Through the story a dark sense of comedy prevails, one example being a dream in which God and Karl Marx tell her to snap out of her depression. The film succeeds in its dark humor, and gives the viewer a witty and intelligent laugh.
The Animation is spectacular as well. With all of Marjane’s reflections (a majority of the movie) done in a clever black in white style, the animation supports the themes of the film greatly and at times adds to the humor. One scene in which Marjane’s uncle describes Iran’s history particularly visually entertaining. The Music and Sound though not exceptional is a solid score, and leaves no room for complaint. Though viewer beware the film is French, and if one detests subtitles or can’t speak French, tant pis (too bad) your missing a great movie. Overall the production values of this film excel, and further aid to an exceptional movie.
Though not your typical coming of age tale, “Persepolis” gives a darkly comic account of Marjane Satrapi’s growth among the tumultuous times in a country, which to many is such an unknown. I’d highly recommend this film to anyone simply for its entertaining and informative take on the Iranian revolution. However, it goes beyond a dry autobiographic, and presents a funny, poignant story of a kid looking to find her place between two extremes.