Persepolisby Zoe Henry / 10.06.2009
South Africans often complain about living here. The crime, the poverty, the lack of jobs, the affirmative action. The list of complaints goes on and on. Whether you’re a right-wing old timer who misses the “good old days”, or a nouveau riche bluppie who’s Blackberry just got pick-pocketed, most of us have something to say. Watching Persepolis made me put my everyday South African grievances aside to appreciate the fact that we made a relatively peaceful transition – we’re one of the few countries in the world that did. Iran is one of the countries that didn’t.
Marjane Satrapi’s coming of age story starts in Iran’s capital, Tehran, during the oppressive reign of the Shah. She’s a regular 10 year-old girl who idealises Bruce Lee, and lives in her Adidas sneakers. With the fall of the Shah and the start of the Islamic Revolution, her life changes forever. She is suddenly forced to wear a headscarf and buy her Iron Maiden cassettes off the black market. Co-ed parties with wine as a social lubricant are now illegal, and citizens are constantly under attack by the morality police.
Marjane is a strong-willed child who grows into a strong-willed adolescent, unafraid to voice her opinions on how oppressive and unreasonable this new regime has become. But while the candle of activism is constantly burning within her, this is still just a small story about a girl growing up. She plays air guitar in her room, asks her mother for money for cassettes, moves to Europe for a while, falls in love, smokes hash, and pretends to be someone she’s not. All the while Iraqi bombs are falling around her and people she knows are being executed.
Persepolis is a phenomenal film. The animation is classic black and white, two-dimensional comic book style – a style that’s been somewhat abandoned since the relentless advance of 3D technology. This style somehow manages to add impact to the story, while simultaneously keeping it from being too heavy going. Marjane’s story is probably one that is very common among the children of various revolutions, but this doesn’t make it any less enthralling and necessary.