Movies after BD — Persepolis

The comic: Published by in 2000 by French alternative publisher L’Association, Marjane Satrapi works in a simple and expressive style, reminiscing of Lynd Ward’s or Frans Masereel’s woodcut novels (or, more frankly, that of David B.’s), to talk about her complicated life and the even more complicate history of the state she lived in. She starts as a young western pop-culture enthusiast with delusions of revolutionary grandeur, then goes abroad to study in France where she experiences heartbreak, becomes homeless and falls ill. Satrapi then returns to Iran trying to restart her life by studying art, and getting married. She tries to subvert the dictatorial regime through her own means, but the increasingly repressive actions of the authorities worry her family, who in turn make her emigrate for good.

The film: Iran has a long and rich cinematographic history, but this French animation is probably one of the best points of entry for a western audience. Faithfully adapted by Marjane Satrapi, with Vincent Paronnaud, from her own homonymous autobiographical graphic novel, it presents the author’s’ life up to the point where she couldn’t live in Iran anymore and emigrated to France. The story stays mostly intact and the visual style becomes enhanced with lusher backgrounds and a fluid animation style.

By recounting episodes from her life, Satrapi also talks about Iran’s war with Iraq and the many deaths it brought, about Islamic Fundamentalism and the hardships it imposed, but also the many ways life continues to move on with its small joys and petty troubles. And she does this artfully, warmly and with humor. The simple style of animation helps universalize the story and its events, turning it from something that happened to some foreign people on another continent into a quest for freedom.