The classic comic directed by the author opens the eyes of the world to the human story of modern Iran.
The original comic had a style of its own with minimalistic drawings in a monochrome blue and the movie made from it is faithful to the original text and acted to perfection. Following in the footsteps of Maus and the works of Joe Sacco, Persepolis demonstrates that the comic/animation medium has a unique role in storytelling.
Persepolis is the autobiography of Marjane Satrapi who recounts her childhood growing up in Iran. As a child she’s vaguely aware of the oppression of the Shah in the 70’s and barely comes of age before the Revolution sees the Islamic regime take control of Iran. The film takes us through the war with Iraq, the fear of the secret police and the mixed attitudes of her family and friends as the world around them shifts so dramatically.
Iran has a turbulent and scarred recent history and Persepolis helps us understand how power came to the Mullahs and just what that meant for the Iranians. But the film is also the story of a young woman growing up and looking for her identity in changing times. She gets permission to leave and study in Austria and once the local punks there hear she lived through a revolution and a war she acquires a ‘cool’ of her own. It’s perhaps in these moments that the animated format achieves what a normal film couldn’t as the two dimensions of the drawn characters demonstrate just how limited most points of view are.
Or maybe not but in any case there’s a flexibility to animated comics that allows the mood to shift from the sombre to the surreal to the comic in the space of a few frames. It would be like if you tried to tell the story of your childhood with sock puppets.
Persepolis is funny, touching, enlightening and profoundly human. Buy the comic, download the movie.