REVIEW: DVD Release: Persepolis

Film: Persepolis
Release date: 18th August 2008
Certificate: 12
Running time: 92 mins
Director: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
Starring: Chiara Mastrolianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian
Genre: Animation/Drama/War
Studio: Optimum
Format: DVD
Country: France

Literally translated into "City Of The Persians", Persepolis is a biographical tale following the trials and tribulations of an Iranian-born woman named Marjane Satrapi.

Set against the backdrop of contemporary Iranian history and politics, Persepolis charts Marjane’s young life as she learns about revolution, rock music and the harsh realities that the modern day world has to offer – the two most significant figures in her life are her God and Karl Marx.

We follow her through the Iranian revolution, as the Shah and his royal lineage were overthrown and replaced by a government, which made the iron fist look like a limp wrist…

Initially, most striking is the style of animation, which is employed throughout the duration of Marjane's story. It is a unique fusion of seemingly simple, child-like figures that vary from the normal to almost Monty Python-styled moments of surrealism, to a delicate, understated eye for subtle craftsmanship that interweaves throughout the scenes. Obviously, after the completion of the film, the animation can undeservedly take a back seat in one’s mind when compared and contrasted with all the powerful emotions that course through this film, but the most wonderful thing about hand drawn storytelling is that it opens more options than its live action cousin.

Persepolis is a mere ninety minutes in length, yet so much is said and told, and not all of it through the use of dialogue. What Persepolis manages to achieve is being able to tell the tales of Marjane and her family, and inform us of the historical and political backgrounds of Iran by seamlessly merging into these pictorial vignettes, which end up conveying more than a verbal retelling could ever accomplish. Its animation is as warm and as infectious as the story that unravels, providing a wonderful counterpart to the heart of this piece of cinema.

While Persepolis may not be a historical document, it is certainly informative, and because we are aware that the events that provide the backdrop for this film were and continue to be real, it gives a greater sense of importance and meaning than any imagined text possibly could.

The film commendably puts into context how much our protagonist, as an individual, has to weigh up in her mind, as she fights with her head and her heart - with the former telling her it is essential to leave, while the latter yearns to be with the loving family that lives in her homeland. Persepolis, however, not only portrays the repressive, extremist views of the ‘modern’ Iranian state, but tackles in an equally unrestrained and delicate manner the uninformed, stereotypical perceptions and the often self-centred attitudes of western society - and how we can find ourselves equally repressive in various other ways.

True to itself and the author who experienced everything from unfaithful lovers to atrocities of war, it is a brutally honest story, which is at times funny and at others touchingly poignant, as she brings her unique perspective from graphic novel onto the big screen.

A unique film with no contemporaries in the originality stakes, which is infinitely charming and should not be overlooked by any lover of animated or foreign films. BL

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