Reviews: Persepolis (2000) by Marjane Satrapi & Persepolis (2007) the film adaption

Persepolis is often mentioned in the same breath as that other autobiographical graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. Very understandable, as Persepolis chronicles the childhood of writer Marjane Satrapi as she grew up in Iran in the 1980s as the country was going through immense political upheavals. For me it didn’t quite reach the heights of Maus but it was a fascinating story and really worth reading.

What’s most impressive about this graphic novel as you start reading it is how Satrapi swims back along the water coaster of time to inhabit the mind of her own 10-year old self. How she remembers what it was like as a child to hear glimpses of political discourse all around her and to understand not even half of it, but to be completely influenced by it as an innocent child. She was an energetic, sassy child, apparently, and completely ready to see herself in all sorts of heroic roles, from Islamic prophet to Marxist revolutionary, flitting from one thing to the next, and hardly understanding what she is talking about. But the country she was living in, Iran, also seemed to be completely confused itself, as in a state of national identity crisis.

My first reaction was that a child shouldn’t be exposed to all that political stuff, but the personal consequences of the revolution were so immediate that it is simply impossible to keep all that stuff away from children. And when the situation just got worse and worse, it really hit me that Marjane might be one of the luckier ones. She grew up in an affluent family with a maid and progressive thinking parents. When the war with Iraq broke out, at least she wasn’t sent to the front as a child soldier. That moment in history was also a hard-hitting one in the novel. Imagine that your country is being invaded and your city showered in bombs, but at the same time you’re not safe from your own police force that is hunting and torturing people for having anti-revolutionary sentiments. It’s a world gone mad.

The second half the collection is all about Marjane’s experiences as a refugee in Europe, and her eventual return to Iran. Not only does she have to try to find a way to work with the culture in Austria where she is dropped and deal with her shame and pride and other mixed feelings about her home country, but she also has to navigate puberty at the same time and explore her own identity in that (alien) culture. Nothing is ever easy. It was very interesting for me to read about life from the perspective of a girl and then a young woman in a Middle-Eastern country, and then the life of a refugee in Europe, as it is about as far as possible from my own life. 

About the film: Persepolis (2007)

Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and for two BAFTA awards, the French-language Persepolis (2007) is a highly regarded animated film. It’s very loyal to the source material, the comic, and the animation style is minimalistic with heavy use of black, also like the comic. I haven’t really talked about the art style so far; in the comic I thought it was a bit bland and uninteresting to look at, and occasionally some panels weren’t very clear in their communication. For the film, a similar style is used but is a little bit more immersive and lively than the comic.

The film feels a bit rushed in the beginning. So many political events are necessary to explain what is going on in Iran that it is all squeezed together, while the comic could take more time to work through it. Soon after that the film finds its footing and once Marjane moves to Austria, the humorous moments come to the fore and make the film more playful. The movie makes an impact on you, just like the comic. Scenes of farewell made me tear up. If comics are not your cup of tea, try this, as it provides an abridged version of the comic with most of the highlights intact.

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7 Responses to Reviews: Persepolis (2000) by Marjane Satrapi & Persepolis (2007) the film adaption

  1. I love the final scene with the rose petals fallimg

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bormgans says:

    I liked her The Musician even more. I think you´ll like it too…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Guy Delisle – Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City (2011) Review | A Sky of Books and Movies

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