Thursday, June 26, 2008


I have been waiting to see this movie since I missed it at the Savannah Film Fest last October. Fortunately, this Oscar nominated animated film came out on DVD yesterday. Persepolis is based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, who also co-wrote and directed the movie. I strongly recommend reading the book as well, but consider seeing the movie first. I loved the book so much that the movie could not possibly have met my expectations. Despite this, it was still a triumph in all aspects.

The story is Satrapi's autobiography of growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution of the late seventies and the subsequent war with Iraq. There is a little bit of history, but nothing substantial. The main focus is looking at these major events through the eyes and memories of a little girl. A little who is enamored with Western culture and inspired by the rebellious history of her family (her uncle and grandfather had both been political prisoners at various times). The story also follows her as she travels to Europe to escape the oppression.

Despite all the serious political conflict, the main drive behind the movie is Marjane's struggle to find herself, and not forget where she came from. She is constantly at odds with those in power, whether in Iran or Europe, yet frequently finds herself denying her heritage. Neither Education, travel, or even relationships seem to bring her peace. It's a very interesting story of one woman's struggle to deal with her roots.

This is a unique movie in that it is almost entirely 2D. There are some 3D parts, but they are masked very well and are not even noticeable. In fact, some of the more abstract dream sequences go so far as to resemble cutouts. This sort of style would not be found in any American Hollywood production these days. There very idea that the movie returns to more traditional techniques in hopes of emulating the graphic novel feel makes it seem new and refreshing.

Mixed with the serious nature of the movie there are some genuinely funny and charming moments. And many of the characters (especially those in Europe) provide an interesting contrast to the seriousness of the revolution. While in Marjane's homeland people are fighting a war, these European students are trying to pose as nihilistic anarchists (but really only succeed in following fashion trends). At other times, the exaggerated animation keeps this firmly rooted as being a cartoon.

The movie is absolutely wonderful. The only thing that disappointed me was that some things from the book were glossed over. In the process, they kept it at a very palatable hour and a half. So none of this would have bothered me had I not read the book first. This is easily one of the best movies I've seen in a long time.


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