An animated movie for adults largely told in black-and-white with deep political and historical implications that works even 14 years after its release? That doesn’t happen very often. But the feature based on Iranian-born French writer Marjane Satrapi called Persepolis does exactly that. Persepolis is many things at once, it is a darkly comic film, it is also a historical-political drama and it works greatly as a ‘bildungsroman.’ Basically, a coming-of-age narrative which is here told against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution that took place in 1979.
The story is about a young Iranian woman who grows up in a strictly orthodox government. However, her parents regularly partake in rallies and protests against the government, which further informed our heroine’s ideology. Later, listening to her grandmother, she continues to defy the strict regime of Iran, getting caught in trouble multiple times. Until she is finally sent to Vienna by her parents. But there too, Marji doesn’t want to be held down by established authorities and continues to rebel. She wears jeans, listens to heavy metal music and suffers numerous heartbreaks amidst all the political turmoil. The film beautifully draws parallels to the protagonist’s own maturity as her country, Iran, struggles to find its footing after so many battles and bloodshed.
The point in the narrative when Marji wants to take her own life after fighting and failing her personal obstacles, that is when the movie becomes more personal, and as a result, more interactive. In a one-of-a-kind sequence depicting Marji suffering depression, and her inclination to end it all, the filmmakers Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud suffuse the succeeding act with a jolt of joy as we see Marji get up and fight her sickness, whilst dancing to a track called “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. The pun of using such a song and by band with such a telling name at this juncture of the film does not get lost.
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In her acceptance speech at the Cannes Film Festival, the author had highlighted the universal nature of the movie, but had dedicated the Jury Prize to Iranians, saying, “Although this film is universal, I wish to dedicate the award to all Iranians.”
Persepolis was not only a box office success, but went on to win several high-level international acclaims, including the Cannes Jury Prize, nomination for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category, as well as a Golden Globe nomination.