Hello again and welcome to the second annual No-English Moviember! I know I am excited to be writing some of my favourite reviews
again and I hope you are all at least slightly open to the possibility of maybe reading these. You know, if the weather’s bad, the TV has nothing good on its thousands of channels, you somehow lost your phone and the internet only connects you to this review.Well with that long and overly pleading joke out of the way, let’s jump right into the first No-English Moviember review of 2015! And what better way to start up the series anew than with the animated biographical film, Persepolis!
Persepolis begins with Marjane Satrapi (Chiara Mastroianni) arriving at a Parisian airport preparing to fly back to Tehran, donning her hijab next to a garishly made up Parisian, yet is unable to go through customs when she reaches the front of the queue. Taking a seat whilst smoking, Marjane thinks back to her childhood which transitions the film from the colour of her present to the black-and-white of her past when Marjane was in the prime of her careless and questioning youth. Yet fundamental changes, for both her and her country, were looming over the horizon.
The beauty of Persepolis is the fact that, through Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud directorship, Satrapi’s graphic novel is translated perfectly to the screen. The graphic novel art-style is truly stunning and allows the story to be shown in its own distinct style, thereby allowing audience unfamiliar with the book to see the brilliant artwork, as well as keeping the work untarnished from a live-action adaptation.
But without a story of substance, fine artistry will bear no fruit. But Persepolis delivers that in abundance. With all the political, religious and cultural commentaries Persepolis makes, at its heart is is a coming of age story. Marjane starts out as any normal child would, loving:
…fires with ketchup, Bruce Lee was my hero, I wore Adidas sneakers and had two obsessions: Shaving my legs one day and being the last prophet in the galaxy
But this is all changed the 1979 Iranian Revolution and, while Marjane’s Mother (Catherine Deneuve), Grandmother (Danielle Darrieux) and Father (Simon Abkarian) are seeing people killed around them in their fight against the Shah, Marjane is still playing revolutionary, even attempting to poke a boy’s eyes out with nails with her friends because his father worked for secret police, who supposedly killed one million people, only to be stopped by her mother.
It’s good to see throughout the film, even under exceptional circumstances, Marjane portrays herself not as some person above everyone, but as a normal person, one of the crowd, constantly learning to become a better person as we all do. It is even more reassuring that, even in her later and presumably wiser year, Marjane is brought down to size, usually by her Mother and Grandmother, for making the wrong decisions.
We grow as Marjane grows, loves as she loves, hates as she hates, and learn as she learns, turning from a well-meaning but sometimes misguided youth, a punk loving outspoken youth to a well rounded, yet still outspoken, woman. It’s poignant and excellently executed in a way that could not be done if it were a live action remake.
Religion is a point that is bashed into the skull in Persepolis, but not in a way that denies religion, rather in the way that religion is used against the people to keep others in power, and in particularly women. With the enforcement of the hijab, the need for women to be “modest”, needless censorship and so many other needless and at times abusive religious mandates, it really puts the point across that the freedom they fought for in 1979 has still not bore fruit, with women still being the second class citizen to their male compatriots.
However, having said all this, do not think this a heavy artistic film that one watches to feel the awfulness of it all and speak philosophically over. This film knows to have fun with itself. Satrapi knows when and where to put a bit of humour in part to bring a bit of lightness as well to reinforce some other points. One that comes instantly to mind is Marjane’s friend’s story about her sister and, after her divorce, every man wanted to sleep with her as, since she’s not a virgin, she should have no reason to refuse their advances.
Reading this written down, it is exactly as awful and reprehensible as it sounds, but it is handled so coolly in a smokey flashback that one cannot help laugh at the sly double entendres and the ridiculousness of the premise, even if based around fact. Satrapi and Paronnaud squeeze in so many funny scenes and even manage delicately handle situations where the mood could go down to pointed jabs tipped with laughter. Andwho could forget that Eye of the Tiger scene. Genius.
Persepolis also manages to makes brilliant comments on the West vs East idea that has plagued many for years, coming to the conclusion that, in a sense, neither are all which they display themselves to be. Marjane’s time in the West shows us that, while we have the freedoms that Iran lacks, the West is garishness and inhospitable, with Marjane almost starving to death in Austria after being left with nowhere to live. It really shows that shows us that outsiders in the western world, once outside the protective bubble, are left in the cold with next to no support from family or friends.
However in the East, the country in which Marjane grew up and feels so akin with in so many ways, has changed so catastrophically so that her opinion is stifled, she cannot walk around freely as she chooses, be with people she loves in public, do anything that others deem “immodest” and conform to religious laws. The lack of freedom is unrelenting but her family and friends remain in Iran, pulling Marjane in multiple directions on staying in a country she can no longer live in or going to a continent where she can never feel truly at home.
Persepolis is a well-crafted tale on the struggle to remain true to oneself and trying to fins the place between your past and future and the realisation that that path perhaps does not truly exist. It’s thoughtful, brutal and whimsical in equal measure and transcends the label of being a good animated film, but is a fantastic film, full stop.
Thank you for reading my first No-English Moviember review of 2015. I hope you enjoyed it and continue to follow me for the rest of this month. If you still want to participate, send me some of your reviews at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again and I’ll see you next week!