After 45 minutes watching the animated film ‘Persepolis’ last night, I imagined that I would be blogging unadulterated praise this morning and urging all Three Thousand Versts readers to get tickets ASAP. Actually it began to ramble a little after the hour mark, either that or the pre-show coffee had reached my bladder enough to make me restive, or perhaps it was a combination of the two. Nevertheless, this charcoal animation, examining the experience of liberal Iranians following the 1979 revolution, was still arresting enough to deserve some plaudits.
I gather that the film is adapted from a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi on whom the protagonist of this coming of age fable, ‘Marji’, is presumably based. Marji is a little girl when we join her secular, left leaning family and revolution flares against the Shah. Initially they welcome these events and even the emergence of fanatical Islamists in government is dismissed as a passing phase. Soon, however, the oppression and sexism of the new regime becomes the focus of the family’s resentment.
Marji is sent to school in Europe to escape an airless regime and the dangers of the Iran-Iraq war. There she is patronised and finds that western freedoms come replete with an exploitative underbelly. After a period of homeless ness she returns home to an Iran where moral policemen and fear have acquired a quotidian quality and Tehran’s residents are trying as best they can to normalise their lives.
Marji is an amusing cartoon to follow through these various transitions, and there is enough substance drawn from historical events to provide the animation with political frisson. She is however a cartoon, and as the film follows the tortuous narrative of depression and divorce which accompanies her return to Iran, it rather loses momentum. Much stronger are the earlier scenes in which her childish imagination filters the revolution into humorous narratives.
Still the animation is striking and there is enough humour to leave you feeling positive toward this charming little film.