Persepolis is a biopic of sorts, about an Iranian girl, Marjane, during the Iraq/Iran war and the conflicts of the Shah regime and their control of the Iranian citizens. A very heavy subject matter for a film that is animated, but it is done beautifully, with the nuance and charm needed to perfectly meld animation with the devastation of war. The film begins in 1979, with a precocious Marjane filled with optimism, striving to one day become a prophet. She is filled with such hope and innocence, she tells her grandmother in one scene that in the future, pain and suffering for the elderly will be illegal, when her grandmother asks how, Marjane simply replies, “it will be banished.” The first Act of this film is filled with these cute and sincere moments, and it is not until her uncle, Anoosh, is released from prison, when the dark nature really starts to come through.
The western influence in Iranian culture is evident throughout the film, and while illegal, you see teens trying to rebel by buying black market cassette tapes of Michael Jackson and Iron Maiden, wearing “punk shoes” Nike sneakers, and even wearing the sewn adage “punk is not ded” on the back of a denim jacket. Marjane becomes enthralled with western culture, as one scene shows her head-banging to Iron Maiden in her room. As any concerned parent would do, Marjane’s parents send her away to Austria once danger becomes all too real when a bomb strikes down a family friend in the adjacent apartment building.
The film takes on many dark subjects, from unqualified “leaders”, to hypocrisy within the public perception of men and women, and Marjane’s realization that the rest of the world takes their freedoms for granted. For the most part, the animation is black and white, to portray the arbitrary outlook of the Iranian regime. It is a shame that the Iranian government boycotted this film. There must be too much truth for them to handle. The film succeeds in showing you the loving and nurturing side of the Iranian people, and how they only want to protect their families and change the situation they are in, but what can you do when you have others to think about? Do what you are told, and conform; happens every day. You can’t change where you were brought up, or what nationality you were born into, but you CAN create your own future.
[Persepolis is available on DVD.]