Reviews: Persepolis

Persepolis 2 (Graphic Novel)

A slightly unnecessary but touching sequel. Persepolis 2 is good and a must-read if you enjoyed the first Persepolis. But there is just something missing in the sequel. The story is unpleasantly disjointed in parts and the pages aren't very visually interesting, which is pretty problematic in a graphic novel. I don't know much about the historical accuracy etc. of this novel, as I am often wary of memoirs written for western audiences because editors have exploitative tendencies but I can say that this is certainly an enjoyable read.

The first Persepolis is an absolutely stellar graphic novel. I consider it definitive of the genre. Persepolis 2 is merely good.

Review: 4/5

Unusual Animation Complements Unique Structure

Note: I have only seen the film version, but from what I can tell, it's faithful to the comic. Therefore, a lot of my compliments to the film are probably compliments to the original comic by Satrapi.

Persepolis is not like many other animated movies. It does not take place in a fantastic world, unless you consider the one we live in today fantastic. Its characters are drawn far more cartoonishly than in other traditionally animated films, yet they are far more real. There is no climax, only a sad goodbye. The film owes its strangeness to the origin of the story, the life of its author Marjane.

The animation is one of my favorite aspects. It imitates the look of the comic, with simply illustrated black-and-white characters that look demented and silly as easily as they look somber and grounded in reality. The entire thing flows very well, and there is clever use of scene transitions as framing devices. One thing I was very surprised by was how recognizable the characters were; while the faces are simple and 2-dimensional, most of the film is in black-and-white, and the women often wear headscarfs that make them look more similar, I never had trouble telling who was who.

The story is not a traditional one with a three act structure. Instead, it is a story of life that imitates all triumphs and pitfalls of our everyday existence. Depression, love, loss, bravery, selfishness, even simple pondering over the role of God... Marjane encounters all of these because that's what normal people deal with, and that's why her journey is so interesting to me. It's all real, in more ways than one.

Finally, there's the political side of this. It can be very blunt, but it's blunt for a reason; when people live under oppressive regimes (Like the dictatorship my father lived under), they feel the effects all the time. It's difficult for us who have not lived in those places to comprehend. It's also sometimes a good thing to get knocked out of our comfort zone.

Hopefully, we'll see more animated works like Persepolis in the future; works that deal with life and its troubles instead of just artificially forced-in dramatic conflicts, works that question our

Culture clash, authority clash, and one epic life story told in simple lineart

There's a lot that can be said about Persepolis. Despite its simple cartoon lineart, the story it tells isn't simple or funny. It's a life story, a drama, of a woman whose life takes her back and forth between Iran and Europe, as she follows the strange path her life takes her. The expressive cartoon art is sometimes used to exaggerate a scene for humor or portray it figuratively, but mostly it's just part of the stylization.

In Iran, Marjane is unhappy with the oppressive government cracking down on Western influences and "immorality", and fights back in her own ways, buying bootleg rock music, but not actively taking part in the protests against the government that are going on. She leaves Iran in her early adult years, but returns later, only to find it's become even more oppressive, to the point where holding hands with her boyfriend gets her questioned by the police.

One she grows up, Marjane moves to Europe, where she finds more freedom, but a lot of confusion. Her restrictive life in Iran left her very sheltered, not knowing much about the outside world. However, her odd background results in her becoming friends with some societal outliers, who think that her having grown up during a revolution and a war is cool. She is introduced to their culture, which at first freaks her out (her first encounter with screamo music is hilariously portrayed), but she comes to assimilate.

However, Marjane is constantly clashing with others. If it's not the culture clash in Europe, it's clashes with authority. She finds herself kicked out of a religious school, kicked out of a home she's staying at - leading to the only use of the F-bomb in the entire movie - and in trouble with the law in Iran.

There are large contrasts that can be drawn between her life in Iran and Europe. In Europe, Marjane finds freedom but doesn't know what to do or how to handle herself, eventually ending up homeless. In Iran she ironically finds stability, but certainly not freedom, with the culture police shutting down parties, resulting in the death of one person who tried to escape them but fell to his death instead.

This is a neat movie. Some elements are slightly cartoonishly exaggerated, but the story is overall grounded in reality, which makes sense considering it's a true story. This film might be worth checking out. It'll leave an impression.