In many ways Persepolis is a familiar coming-of-age story that is universally relatable for anyone who struggled to find an identity on the way to adulthood or who found the overnight changes to the teenage body freaky. On the other hand, the comic-book animation and writer/co-director Marjane Satrapi's honest telling of her extraordinary adolescence in Iran make this movie something altogether unique.
Persepolis is based on the best-selling comic book-as-memoir written by Satrapi, which recounts her life growing up in a politically tumultuous era of Iranian history that persists today. Full of humor and wry observations about her younger self, this film is a fresh take on how resilient the human spirit can be despite extremely repressive tyrannical regimes. To find out the other reasons I recommend this fabulous Oscar-nominated movie,
Marjane is a precocious little girl obsessed with Bruce Lee karate moves and adored by her upper-middle class parents and grandmother. If the modern images of Iranian women cloaked in dark robes say one thing about their status in this society, the female characters portrayed in Persepolis say something entirely different. Though living under the Shah's dictatorship, the well-educated adults in the story passionately discuss leftist politics and willfully defy the protocols of the day by throwing secret parties for their friends. But soon enough, a revolution begins to stir and whatever hopes her parents have for a more free society are soon crushed when a new Islamic regime takes over.
The situation worsens as Marjane comes of age in a war-torn country ruled by an intolerant regime. To her parents' horror, Marjane's precociousness turns to pure rebellion, talking back to teachers and purchasing American punk music off the street. Desperate, her parents send her off to Vienna, but joining the Western world as an awkward teen from a place many don't understand presents a new set of complications (including romantic ones). Marjane no longer fits into the country of her youth, but is unsure of how to reconcile this with her love of her family and an ambivalence toward the West.
Voiced by a superb cast of accomplished French actors including Catherine Deneuve, Simon Akbarian, and Danielle Darrieux, the characters in Persepolis are exquisitely developed and nuanced. The grandmother is an especially lively mix of old-world traditions and modern-day sass. It's hard to believe all this is conveyed through a palette that is merely variations of gray. And though you sometimes feel as hopeless as Marjane, Satrapi's wonderfully modern, almost art deco-inspired animation reminds you that this young girl became a woman who fulfilled her wildest dreams, despite all odds.
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures