Directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Based on graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi
Screening at from 25th April
- 1st May 2008
With top US, Israeli and French politicians threatening to obliterate
Iran, and Iranians often being portrayed in the media as being a bunch
of fanatical barbarians, this honest, charming and amusing animation is
a pleasant antidote to all the nastiness. Ultimately, however, it fails
to fully convince, and the second part drifts off into dangerous waters.
Persepolis (taking its name from the capital of the old Persian empire),
is an animated version of Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels.
It tells the story of Satrapi's life, from her very early years as an
innocent child with big ideas, up to her decision to become a writer in
France as an adult.
The first hour of the film is sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, but always
enthralling. Through playful Marjane's young eyes we experience events
such as the overthrow of the western backed Shah, and the war with neighbouring
Iraq. Her family, who lived relatively comfortable lives, nevertheless
risked everything by joining the Moscow-backed Communist Party. As the
Shah's regime was toppled, the Communists threw their weight behind the
Islamicists, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Sadly, this spelled the end for
many of Marjane's left-wing relatives and friends, as they were rounded
up and either imprisoned or executed.
A traumatised but still rebellious Marjane could not live under the strict
new regime (never has buying an Abba record seemed this daring), so her
surviving family sent her away to Austria. There, she had some fun with
the 'underground' scene, but found many people to be pretentious and empty.
In fact the individualism of 1980s western society almost killed her,
as she ended up nearly overdosing and choking to death.
However, it is at the point when Marjane returned to Iran that the film
becomes much less absorbing. She found some solace in familiar faces,
especially that of her grandmother, but with revolution not on the horizon,
she retreated into herself. Whereas this is perfectly understandable,
it doesn't make for great cinema. After all, 'what is the point of my
life?' has been done many times before. For Satrapi, the answer was Paris.
Towards the end, the film gets mired in excessive sentimentality, and
leaves the current situation in Iran practically untouched. While Khomeini's
followers are still in power, there are massive divisions within the ruling
elite, who are all deeply unpopular amongst the general public. None of
this appears in Persepolis though, because it seems that Iranian politics
since the late 1980s has passed Satrapi by. This creates a general impression
of hopelessness that the people of Iran can change their way of life,
and unintentionally feeds into the pro-war drive in the United States
With the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy apparently signed up to
supporting any new aggression against Iran, it is no surprise to see this
film getting a lot of support from the French establishment.