Saturday, 25 March 2017

World cinema: France & Iran: "Persepolis" (2008) Film Review

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Marjane Satrapi’s French-Iranian animated film “Persepolis” (2008) is an autobiographical adventure of the director, from her youth to coming of age during the Iranian Revolution. The film is also based off the graphic novel, of the same name, by Satrapi. 

The animation style is a beautifully simple and clean style that immerses the viewer into its deep storytelling. Far from the evolution of animated films becoming as realistic as possible, “Persepolis” embraces the 2D style and sticks closely to Satrapi’s actual style of drawing her graphic novels. Roger Ebert explains that: “It might seem that her story is too large for one 98-minute film, but "Persepolis" tells it carefully, lovingly and with great style. It is infinitely more interesting than the witless coming-of-age Western girls we meet in animated films; in spirit, in gumption, in heart, Marjane resembles someone like the heroine is "Juno" -- not that she is pregnant at 16, of course. While so many films about coming of age involve manufactured dilemmas, here is one about a woman who indeed does come of age, and magnificently.” (Ebert, 2008) Agreeing with this, “Persepolis” indeed tells the tale with care; and although some scenes are happy whilst others are tragic, the style keeps the viewer intrigued about what will happen next.

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The first part of the film shows around the first 10 years of Satrapi’s life, which is remembered as a blissful and carefree time. She enjoys life surrounded by a loving family, remembering Bruce Lee as her idol, her interests in fashion and love for pop music. However, as she grew older, things started to change. Ebert explains: “She and her mother and her feisty grandmother had to shroud their faces from the view of men. Makeup and other forms of Western decadence were forbidden. At her age, she didn't drink or smoke, but God save any women who did.” (Ebert, 2008) As the society she once knew was rapidly deteriorating, so was her rights and freedom as a woman. She is almost arrested for wearing makeup, and so her parents, knowing she will be a magnet to trouble, sends her to Vienna. At first, she loves the freedom of Austria, but finds it difficult to live there in the end, due to the drug use and casual sex that is popular among everyone. She eventually returns to Iran, but it is nothing like she remembers. After many events, Marji leaves the country permanently to avoid the Iranian authorities. After her departure, Marji’s grandmother dies shortly after. In a final scene, as Marji gets into a taxi, the driver asks where she is from and she says “Iran”, remembering what her grandmother said about staying true to herself. 

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The film is successful in its storytelling and scenes that flow into the next without being rushed, and keeps with the Iranian roots with the accents, environments, and character outfits, and when the scenes change to a different country, the environments and music change, as well as the characters themselves. 

Truly an emotional rollercoaster, the story that shows what Marji has gone through would make the viewer feel sympathy, however it seems she has grown into a strong and successful woman.


Ebert, R. (2008) (Accessed on 23/03/2017) 

Illustration List

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