Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review - Persepolis

Persepolis - France, 2007

Vincent Paronaud and Marjane Satrapi’s amazing film Persepolis is a dizzying, mind-blowing look at 15 years in a young Iranian woman’s life. I say dizzying because events happen so quickly that there’s hardly enough time to absorb them all. Numerous characters are introduced, some of them undergo hardship and mistreatment, and then they disappear, sometimes due to assassination or capture from the secret police. One the one hand, Persepolis is a history lesson, putting into individual terms the experiences of millions. It is also the remarkable true story of a single individual living through adversity, under threat from hidden and ever-present danger, and doing so without the guidance that most other teenagers grow up having.

The film centers on Marjane, who is just a child when the Iranian Revolution breaks out. However, Marjane’s childhood is hardly a normal one. Dinner-time conversations revolve around history and revolution; bedtime stories include tales of good men betrayed and assassinated. As times goes by, Marjane makes the decision to abandon religion, reasoning that a god that allows such terrible atrocities to occur is not one that is worth following. As the years progress, Iran’s war with Iraq will start, and Marjane will find herself in Vienna, struggling to fit in and survive. When she finally returns to Iran, the only thing she asks is that her parents not ask her about her time in Vienna. I won’t reveal any of her experiences in this review; however, I will say that I can understand her interest in keeping them secret. Unfortunately, the Iran she returns to is one that has become more repressive.

I’m tempted to say that Persepolis is too short. Certain events in Marjane’s life fly by so quickly that viewers hardly have time to process them. Characters come and go at such breakneck speed that I have a hard time remembering most of them, even if many of the images in the film remain etched in my mind. However, the characters that resonate the most – Marjane, her grandmother, her mother, and her father – stayed with me long after the film’s closing credits. I particularly liked the relationship between Marjane and her grandmother, a wise and experienced woman who consistently implores Marjane to stay true to herself, even if doing so requires great sacrifice. All in all, Persopolis is an important and powerful film. (on DVD)

4 stars

*Persepolis is in French, English, Persian, and Russian with English subtitles.

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