Persepolis: Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a simple film, told in minimalist shades and retains a beauty about itself long after the film has ended. Co-director Marjane Satrapi, on whose book the film is based, presents by simple means a story that at once is individual as universal.

The story of Satrapi in pre and post revolutionary Iran is narrated in a series of monochrome drawings, their bold black lines washed with nuances of gray. If the film had been a normal non-animation film with people acting out, then the impact would have been far less.

Instead Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud transform an essentially dark and grim story into a beautiful and entertaining saga of a young girls coming of age against the backdrop of violence and mindless conservatism. This is animation at its best and Persepolis achieves all this without the technical fanfare of a Shrek or Kung-fu Panda.

The movie attains a level of beauty and grace without even once referring to the obviously intended lack of colour that at times one almost forgets that more than a quarter of the film is in black and white. It feels good to be reminded that animation is essentially rooted not in technical finesse but in the impulse to bring static images to life. The films austere look brings about a warm and loving feel and this remains with the viewer long after he is out of the cinema hall. The film is lively and the grace, warmth and independent spirit with which the story has been told are a high point in the film. Then of course is the humour. I must say, that it is very difficult to inculcate genuine humour in a story as grim and serious as this. But, to the credit of the directors, the film is very humourous and retains a sense of fun even in its most serious moments.

Persepolis may not be your daily dose of animation. It is a film that is meant to make a statement and Satrapi does so by using an offbeat course to its maximum benefit. The voices led by French greats Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux lends a charm that is unmistakable. At the end, it is a film that is meant to touch your hearts. It is a victory for its directors. Persepolis is frequently somber, but it is also whimsical and daring, a perfect expression of the imagination’s resistance to the literal-minded and the power-mad, who insist that the world can be seen only in black and white.

Anupam Dhar

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