“Persepolis” is a French greyscale animated film directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. It is based on Satrapi’s graphic novels, inspired by her own life growing up during a revolution in Iran. Satrapi initially was hesitant about working to adapt her graphic novel into a movie, but decided to do so after a request from a friend of hers, Paronnaud, who wanted to become a film producer.
The film follows the young Marjane, a girl growing up in Tehran in the early 1970s. Her early dreams are to become a great prophet and emulator of Bruce Lee. Juxtaposed against her childhood ambitions is the general public uprising against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, which Marjane is taught about through the stories shared by her loved ones.
The Iran that Satrapi was born into is going through a time of political revolution. “It’s only natural,” Marjane’s uncle says after the Islamic
Rebublican Party is officially elected. “Every revolution goes through a period of transition.” Her left-wing family is among those at the forefront of the Shah’s dictatorship.
“Down with the Shah!” a young Marjane chants. From attacking the son of a communist murderer with nails to giving her religion teacher a piece of her mind, Marjane without a doubt takes freedom as a birthright and dares the world to challenge her. Because of her angst, Marjane’s parents decide to send her away to Vienna, Austria for schooling.
“Never lose sight of your dignity,” her grandmother tells her before she goes away. “Always stay true to yourself.”
“Never forget who you are and where you come from,” her father tells her at the airport.
Upon arriving, her new friends introduce her to Vienna’s underground scene. She convinces herself that she is one of them, that she belongs. She pushes aside the depth of her history, trying to fit in. She lives through love, loss, confusion and
revelation. She spends time staying with friends, strangers and on the streets, getting sick and begging to return home, to find a land and its people scarred by war. She leaves a land that gave her the social freedom she craved as a child, but chooses to leave that path behind her and return to her home and to those she loves.
The message of this story, according to Satrapi herself, is that the core essences of all human beings are the same. Though our views of the lives of others are sometimes skewed, we all have dreams, we all have and seek love, we have families and friends, we experience challenges and defeats, we deal with different cultural and political challenges, and we all undoubtedly learn and grow. Even through chaos or calamity, people have the ability to be humbled, healed and united.
“Your duty is to forgive,” a young Marjane is reminded by a figure she imagines to be God. The film is very personal, frequently somber, but whimsical and daring.