Persepolis (2007)

Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Writer: Vincent Paronnaud
Based on: Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical comic
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites, François Jerosme, Tilly Mandelbrot
Seen on: 24.5.2021

Marji (Gabrielle Lopes Benites) is precocious and rather wild girl. She grows up with her parents (Catherine Deneuve, Simon Abkarian) and her grandmother (Danielle Darrieux) in Tehran. Her family is political – a fact that has gotten her uncle Anoush (François Jerosme) into prison already. With the Islamic Revolution, things become even more difficult for them. Finally her parents decide to send Marji – now a teenager and called Marjane (Chiara Mastroianni) – to Austria for her own safety. But being an Iranian girl in Austria isn’t much easier than being one in Iran.

Persepolis has been on my radar for a while now, and I’m not sure why I never watched it until now (probably a case of me wanting to read the comic this is based on first, but I never did). Anyhow, I watched it now and it really was very good.

The film poster showing Marjane, her chin in her hand. Behind her is a bubble that shows her family - mother, father, uncle and grandmother standing around a sofa on which she sits as a child.

Persepolis has an interesting setting and given that Marji is just a child when the Revolution starts, it explains things in a very understandable way to her and the audience. This makes the film a nice primer on the Iranian Revolution for people like me, who suck at historical and geopolitical knowledge. (There is also a special bit of weirdness to watch the film as an Austrian and see Vienna through Marjane’s eyes. Not necessarily a flattering portrayal, but it feels accurate.)

In addition to that, the film has a very nice visual style (from what I know of the comic, it’s pretty much exactly what’s printed there). The black-and-white-and-grey images could have felt oppressive, but there is a sense of humor, both to the images and to the narration itself, that keeps the film from being all doom and gloom.

Marjane getting accosted by two women in Iran who take offense at her clothing.

Most importantly, though, Persepolis draws you in emotionally. You can feel with Marjane every step of the way – her unruliness as a child, her relationship with her uncle, her feeling stifled in Iran, but also her homesickness in Austria, her first love and her first heartbreak. It’s a rich story that by all rights should have taken up more than the 100 minutes or so than the film is long. But with the expressive images, things are boiled down to their most important parts.

It makes Persepolis an engaging film about an intriguing girl and young woman that combines both levity and humor with big issues. It’s definitely worth watching still.

Marjane riding in the car with her Austrian boyfriend.

Summarizing: really good.

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