Persepolis is an animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels which trails the writer’s life growing up in Iran during the revolutionary 1970s and the war-torn 1980s. This ambitious film version pulls together all the complexities of adolescence with huge political clashes and changes, and devastating personal loss. Seeing the revolutionary period through the naive eyes of a middle class child put against harrowing images of repression and torture is at times difficult and powerful.
Persepolis is visually enticing; it uses a vivid black and white graphic style similar to that of the novels on which the film is based. This works perfectly for a story spanning such a climatic period in Iran’s history. The animation means that the story is told equally through script and imagery (real and imaginary) and that it can be reached by many audiences. Persepolis triumphantly pitches the main female characters as eloquent and courageous at best, otherwise as layered and complex.
However, for a film which spans such a defining period in Iran’s recent history and which has been released into a climate of renewed political tension between Iran and the West, my hopes for a punchy meaningful message were disappointed.
There are some trustworthy expositions into why the Iranian people fought for and won the overthrow of decades of the Shah’s corrupt and repressive regime. But overriding this is an image of what followed the revolution – a rule which is ten times more brutal.
Persepolis does not really show the deep economic inequalities in Iranian society which drove its workers to rise. It does not include the continuous waves of progressive mass struggle which spilt into the 1990s and beyond, which colour Iran’s political, social, economic and cultural landscape. In the main, Persepolis does not escape the current deep pessimistic understanding of Iranian society which has a grip on the British-Iranian diaspora.
The film’s achievements include the presentation of Iranian people as humans and not as abstract notions like “Islamic fundamentalists” or “terrorists”, nor Iranian women as fundamentally or willingly subjugated. Those who enjoy outstanding visual flair should see this film. Those who want to see a political film will be unsatisfied.
When we opposed the National Front
An imagined revolt in Port Talbot