I saw a really interesting film this evening with my colleague Philippe. " Persepolis" is a French film based on a graphic novel by Marjane Satrap, who is both author of the novel and director of the film. I hadn't before watched a film based on a graphic novel, but the black and white images proved to be really vivid, particularly in painting a picture of life in Tehran, from pre-revolutionary times to the present, a span of about 30 years.
The story is told through the eyes of a young girl, Marjane, who is growing up as her country is being torn apart by the intolerance of the religious regime that took control after 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, and by the war that followed. Marjane is a very outspoken 9-year-old as the story begins . We clearly see all that happens in the late 1970s through the 1980s and onward, as the revolution forces many of the intellectual elite, and even ordinary citizens, of Iran to flee the country, rather than face the persecution that awaited many of those whose stayed.
The stories of life under the mullahs have been told elsewhere -- Reading Lolita in Tehran was a fascinating book about the intellectual life that struggled to continue in Iran's capital under the religious regime. But this black and white film has a somewhat different perspective, coming from a growing young woman who sees the harassment and distrust in general of women. Marjane tries to flight back in her own way, as she discovers hard rock music and tries to find herself. That boldness, of course, frightens her parents who fear so much for the young woman's safety under a repressive regime.
So when she hits 14, her parents send Marjane away to school in Vienna and, they hope, to safety. Of course, she's frightened and alone in a strange country and at a very vulnerable age. Marjane is so homesick and endures several heartbreaks, so that she becomes willing to wear the veil and return to life in a repressive society in order to go home to Tehran.That remains her condition for several years, until she finally grows up and spreads her wings. And in the end, flees to France.
Presumably, this story is at least semi-autobiographical!
The cast includes Chiara Mastroianni, who provides the voice of Marjane (both as a teenager and adult); and Catherine Deneuve provides the voice of Marjane's mother, Tadji.
BTW, according to the producers, the title Persepolis comes from the Persian capital founded in the 6th century BC by Darius I, later destroyed by Alexander the Great. By using the title, the author intends to remind us that Iran is part of an old and grand civilization that has endured despite the waves of war and repressions that have swept it.
Here's an interesting quote from the author:"I'll hold my head high and keep laughing because they won't get the best of me. As long as you're alive you can protest and shout, yet laughter is the most subversive weapon of all. "