Saturday, 7 April 2012

Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud's 'Persepolis', 2007...

Fig.1 Persepolis poster.

Persepolis is an autobiographical film full of as much heart as any traditional animation could need, but it carries a heavy soul with it too.

Fig. 2 Learning the cultural traditions.
The film is a personal telling of the escape of a young Iranian girl and her family from the chaos of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  It was a time when the country was in a state of disarray, it's current monarchy under the  Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was about to be overthrown and replaced by a democratic Islamic Republic. The reason this film is so effective is because it is such a personal account.  Much like Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis is a first hand account of a traumatic experience for the protagonist and because of this, the audience can relate to and empathise with what is happening. Gillian Whitlock explained that   "These autobiographies are narratives of trauma that remain preoccupied with an experience of estrangement, a “little death” of the self and a painful loss of the known world." (Whitlock, 2010, 165) The film is about the struggle of the family and a young girl's efforts to try to fit in with a restrictingly religious influence around her and a new beginning in unfamiliar territory.  This estrangement is what makes her development so fascinating. She starts to be more and more influenced by western culture and begins to fall in love with the freedoms associated with it.
Fig. 3 Coming-of-age.
As well as being a story of the trauma of estrangement from your home into unfamiliar lands, it is also a story of a young girl's coming-of-age. The young heroine starts her life in the chaotic and restrictive country of Iran and spends her teenage years in France, a country full of freedoms and diversity.  For the first time in her life she is around the culture she has been so excited by and it allows her to become whoever she wants.  Hillary L. Chute believes that "Marjane Satrapi’s account of her youth in Tehran, Persepolis, along with work by a range of American authors, exemplifies how graphic narrative envisions an everyday reality of girls’ and women’s lives, picturing what is often placed outside of public discourse." (Chute, 2010:5)  Persepolis allows the audience to see the world that they would never get to experience otherwise.  The protagonist, Marjane, has provided them with a wonderful example of the life of a woman in her position. She is a refugee from her home country and she is struggling to fit in with a culture that holds her back from everything she wants to be.  Marjane is a confident and outspoken youth, that loves to live her life with the freedoms of western culture, she can't be restricted by her homes values, no matter how much she cares for her family.

Persepolis was a thoroughly enjoyable film that has a sense of humour even through the struggles Marjane and her family experience. One of the most enjoyable elements of this film is its visual style. Helen O'Hara expressed that  "This largely black-and-white, defiantly undetailed and sometimes stylised film could have been made at any point since the dawn of cinema, and yet it’s a thoroughly modern affair." (O'Hara, 2008) The themes of this film are entirely modern but its visual style is eye catching to say the least.  It originated as a graphic novel and its style has been translated to film perfectly. Its use of majoritvely monochrome colouring adds to the tone making is basic and clear to understand but the thick black adds to the atmosphere, especially at the more unpredictable times in the narrative.

List of Illustrations 

Figure 1. Persepolis (2007) Persepolis poster. At: (Accessed on 07.04.12)

Figure 2. Persepolis (2007) Learning the cultural traditions. At:  (Accessed on 07.04.12)

Figure 3. Persepolis (2007) Coming of age. At: (Accessed on 07.04.12)


Whitlock, Gillian (2010) Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit. USA: University of Chicago Press.
Chute, Hillary L. (2010) Graphic Women : Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics. USA: Columbia University Press.

O'Hara, Helen (2008) Persepolis. In: Empire 05.04.2008 [online] At:  (Accessed on: 14.04.12)

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