Film review – Persepolis (2007)

Iranian born Marjane Satrapi was in many ways a typical adolescent girl – opinionated, defiant and rebellious yet a bit of a romantic and very devoted to her family. What sets her apart from so many others is that she lived through the Iranian Revolution, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, the Iran/Iraq war and almost dying homeless on the streets of Vienna. Persepolis is the animated film adaptation of Satrapi’s widely acclaimed autobiographical graphic novels about those times.

Like the graphic novel Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, which was an influence for Satrapi, Persepolis tells a deeply personal story against the backdrop of very significant historical events. This film version, which Satrapi co-wrote and co-directed, has retained the graphic novel’s simple black and white style, giving the characters a surprising depth and empathy.

While Persepolis mourns the suffering of the Iranian people under the various oppressive political regimes, it is also a joyful depiction of how life goes on. Satrapi is a wonderfully impulsive free spirit and many of her experiences in Tehran and Vienna are very funny. Persepolis is extremely entertaining, often moving and an eye-opener to those of us who know little about Iran.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 311, 2008

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008