Monday, July 14, 2008

Persepolis - a powerful animated parody

This film came highly recommended by a friend, and although animation doesn’t usually attract me I went along. And by God, I’m glad I did. Persepolis is the autobiographical account of the Iranian born Marjane Satrapi; a tale of ordinary growing pains and young adulthood set against a politically charged climate in Iran.

Early on Marjane’s parents explain to her how the Shah came to power (allegedly aided by the UK and US in pursuit of oil) and the political message is clear yet easily digestible. Daughter to politically active parents in a divided community she develops strong beliefs and questions those around her; encouraged and inspired by her formidable grandmother among others. The child becomes a teenager with a strong rebellious character and the courage of her convictions – railing against the regime, wearing Iron Maiden t-shirts and questioning the oppression of women.

After trouble at school her family send her to Europe for her own protection. In Vienna she struggles to fit in or to find her place in normal society, carrying with her the guilt of knowing what her friends and family suffer at home. Her experiences of familiar issues such as going away and coming home, relationship with her parents, first love and standing up for what you believe in are magnified by the exterior issues of cultural misogyny, war, a divided community and an oppressive regime.

Marjane’s story is told with the brutal truth that animation allows, at times hilariously funny and at others deadly serious – like life itself. Somehow the characters and events feel more real than if they were played by flesh and blood actors, perhaps in the way that reading a book can evoke a more tangible experience than watching a film?

I found much to relate to within the film; Marjane portrays herself as a fallible human being, likeable in her combination of vulnerability and strength. What a fantastic way to bring the story of Iran alive for those of us on the outside – a real insight and an elevating experience. Parody is indeed a powerful weapon.

My favourite so far...


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