Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Premise: An animated film about Marjane, a girl coming of age amid the Islamic Revolution in Iran. As she enters adulthood, Marjane struggles with her national, ethnic, and religious identity.
What Works: Persepolis is a terrific example of animation being used for more than just the screwball adventures of singing animals. The film does not attempt to make its animation as real as possible or merge it with live action. Instead, Persepolis keeps its images impressionistic and uses the form to tell a more complex story, allowing the backgrounds and shading to fill in the subtext of the story. As an animated film Persepolis is unique in that it is done in a traditional hand-drawn form and the skill of the animation is very impressive; it’s hard to tell if this was done by hand or in a computer. As a historical film, Persepolis uses the animation to its advantage. The form allows the story to literally travel the globe very smoothly and the Iranian characters of Persepolis are less of an exotic or ethnic other than many live action films; by removing a lot of the distractions of racial appearances, Persepolis is able to get past the surface of its characters and present them as empathetic human beings. This is done especially well in the relationship between Marjane and her grandmother, a character who flies in the face of every Muslim stereotype in western film. In dealing with the history of Iran, Persepolis takes some time to sketch out a timeline of events but deals with the politics very economically and uses humor to lighten a lot of the content. On a more personal level, the film tells a great story of a woman’s growth from adolescence to adulthood and how her struggles both mirror and are complicated by political and religious elements in Iran and abroad.
What Doesn’t: The only weakness of Persepolis is in its ending, as the film concludes on an ambiguous note. Ambiguity is fine but in this case the film seems to be driving for a more concrete resolution but it ends before gets there.
DVD extras: Commentary track, featurettes, trailers.
Bottom Line: Persepolis is a great example of the possibilities of animation. This is an important film to be screened, especially at this time in history. The film attempts to tackle multiculturalism in a way that truly addresses the friction between and within cultures rather than just trying to ease the tension with empty platitudes.
Episode: #199 (August 10, 2008)