Based upon the graphic novel series, Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, is a journey of one girls life from a young age to adulthood that answers so many personal existential questions as well as answers to those ever puzzling quandaries of “Why is Iran/Islamic societies so bound by destruction and warfare?”.The beginning of this tale begins with a woman waiting in an airport and having a smoke. As time passes, she begins to recall this journey of life she had. As a young girl, Marjane, is full of life and ambition. Her family, a politically educated crew who deals with life in Iran and the political situations that were happening at the time in the 1960-70’s, is much of the reason for Marjane becoming the sort of person she will come to be later in life. At the particular time, the Shah was ruling Iran allowing Iran to have the luxuries of the Western world while continuing to pursue the ideas of an Islamic state. For most in the country during this time, including Marjane’s family, this was a conflict of interest and most saw the political workings of the Shah as bad for the country and people in general. As you would expect, a revolution arose out of the ashes of the people and into the hearts of all around. As the revolution spread like wild fire, the efforts to overthrow the Shah become more difficult. He was eventually overthrown, yet he was replaced by a more conservative ruler whom would bring Iran to an even worse state by not allowing any Western material into its society (books, art, music, movies, etc) and instilling the “typical stereotyped” rules of an Islamic state. Battles still fueled between the ideals, which only become worse as Iraq saw the opportunity to attack Iran in belittled state only fueled by the United States in efforts to destroy all that was Iran.
As these transitions continued taking place, Marjane’s family is torn by these efforts and situation. At first fully supporting the revolution, they became very concerned for the educated open-minded beings they have become. Marjane’s Uncle, a political prisoner in exile, had been freed during the revolution, but had now found himself back into the same situation. In prison, although with serious charges; charges of death for his Marxist ideals and influences.
Her family becomes even more worried for the safety of their open-minded, outspoken daughter, which they decide it best to send her away to Vienna , Austria. When she arrives, she is conflicted with the ideas passed from her mother and father as she was leaving, which was to never forget where you’ve come from. This begins a series of trials and errors in attempting to find herself and who she is in a new world that she has no clue ever existed till now. She quickly makes friends with a nihilistic group, for the sake that she had just come from a place filled with death and destruction (a nihilists dream come true). As she begins to struggle with interaction with others and the stereotypes others have for her (because she is from Iran), she begins to lose the identity in who she is to be in efforts to find who she really is. In these same efforts, she longs of belonging through romantic relationships that fail miserably and friendships that only end in despair. As she struggles to solve “life’s problems”, she finds herself homeless, homesick, and an evermore longing to belong in the world.
Succumbing to humility, she phones her parents and asks to return. Upon returning, she is informed of everything that has happened since she has left, politically and within the family. For the culture, “family” is such a liberal word and much of her “family” seems to be half of Tehran, but nonetheless, she is relieved to be home and in a place where she feels needed and away from a place filled with apathy.
As she quickly settles in, she finds herself “clinically” depressed, which drugs could cure, but only make the situation worse. She finally kicks the fluff of depression after attempting to overdose and finds herself anew again. She finds love. She finds marriage. She is still unhappy with herself and who she truly is. Her marriage fails and she feels as if she has failed. As her grandmother consuls her, she realizes many more aspects to life. As she stands on a street corner and is visually harassed by a man on a park bench reading the newspaper, she’s out to conquer the world, while still remaining provocative in her head dress and black cloak. Policemen corner her and begin asking questions. Moving into survival mode, she then elaborates a story which would put the man on the bench in prison and allow her the freedom to live her day. Feeling proud over what she has done, she explains what happened to her grandmother who awaits for her in her apartment. Shocked and stunned by the news. Her grandmother scolds her by saying her has lost all integrity and innocence of life. She has lost all her entire family as worked towards. In solid efforts to be who she is to be, she has lost all that was important and worth standing up for. She has completely missed the mark.
After such an ordeal, she feels it’s best to move back to Europe, to France. As she leaves her beloved family behind once more, she knows more than ever that finding whom she will be can only be based upon the important values her family has so strongly believed in and would die for. As she arrives in Paris and catches a cab, the driver asks where is is from. She responds, “Iran.”
The movie ends with the voice of a young Marjane asking her grandmother, “what makes you smell so good?” “Well my darling, every morning before I get ready, I go outside for a few Jasmine blossoms, which I stuff into my bra.”
It seems as though there is always a sense of innocence that is stripped away from anyone who is forced into a war. The messy ideals of personal agendas affect more than just the lives of those around you, but the lives of whole countries or regions. In this case, a young girl struggles to find the meaning in life, but is able to find this meaning through the innocence of life, which was ruthlessly stolen from her by agents outside herself.
This is a truly beautiful story. Well worth the credit it is being deserved of. Despite some of the mature language and sometimes rude behavior, this movie is definitely one worth the watch; especially if you’re like myself and long strong international flair and more cultural understandings. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by: Andrew Colter.
Duration: 95 mins.
Genre: Animated, foriegn.
Actors: [voices of] Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites, Gabrielle Lopes.
Director: Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi
Release Date: TBC.