Sunday 28 April 2013

Persepolis (2007)

Of the animated films I've so far watched - 'Yellow Submarine' (1968), 'Up' (2009) and this, 'Persepolis' is comfortably my favourite in animation style and in content too.  This is an adaptation of Majane Satrapi's graphic novel, and co-director Vincent Paronnaud borrows her occasionally Hergé-esque 'ligne claire' style and puts it in motion.  Most of the film is told in monochrome flashback.  The individual shots are clear, handsome and often striking.

I understand the original book was at least semi-autobiographical.  It's a story of young Marji growing up in Iran of the 70s and 80s, a country torn by war and revolution.  The children don't take it especially seriously, accepting only that people get arrested, soldiers march around with guns, and it's a fine time to lark around.

Things get grimmer as she grows older.  People die, or are imprisoned, and nobody can openly speak the truth.  It's still not a bad place to have a party, but it can end badly.  The revolution makes matters worse, not better, and the new government obliges women to wear veils.  A lonely education in Europe seems the only escape.  She grows up, endures a number of unenjoyable romances, and is left without any clear idea where she can call home.

It's sad, and difficult, and often great fun, so feels very much like real life.  The animation style is excellent, fascinatingly watchable, giving a stylised, childlike view of the world.  It's a very good film, and I found it to be quite an education.  'Persepolis' gives a picture of an interesting country of real, ambitious people, marred, oppressed and set back by a theocratic government of extremely conservative Islamic fundamentalists.  I've realised my knowledge of modern Iran is terribly limited, and though I used to work for an Iranian woman, I never really asked about the country she seemed glad to leave behind.

I'd be curious to seek out the original comic from which the film was adapted, and Marjane Satrapi's other writings, to learn more.  Since she co-directed the film, I can well believe it captures the spirit of the original.  I'd recommend it to almost anyone, though some of the language is sufficiently strong, and the themes mature, that I'd err away from showing it to a weakly child.  And since it's animated, you have the choice to watch it with either French or English audio.  Both seem equally legitimate, and I only went with the French because so much was actually set in France.

I'd say it was worth your time.  Someone's borrowing my copy at present, or I'd lend it to y'all myself.

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