Persepolis


Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Written by:Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes
Released: August 21, 2008
Grade: A+

Persepolis is one of the finest animated films ever made.  I don’t think I’ve seen another film this year which has left such an emotional impact.  That said, it’s going to be tough for me to convince some moviegoers to see it.  This is because (1) the style of animation looks basic, (2) it’s in black and white, and (3) it’s French with English subtitles.

Wait!  Don’t stop reading just yet.  Let me tell you more about the film.  The central character is a girl named Marjane.  She was born in 1969 and the story follows her upbringing in Iran.  Marjane was always taught by her parents to be open-minded.  This made life very difficult for her under Iran’s suppressive political regime.  People couldn’t drink alcohol.  People couldn’t have parties.  People couldn’t even own playing cards.  The lack of civil liberties was even worse if you were a woman.

This story isn’t one of fiction.  It’s based on the autobiographical graphic novels which were written by Marjane Satrapi.  Satrapi created this movie adaptation with the help of fellow comic book writer Vincent Paronnaud.  Her books have been read by many people but the medium of cinema now allows Satrapi to tell her story to a wider audience.  Most importantly, she’s been able to do it her own way – in black and white with simple, hand-drawn animation.

It’s taken a while for the film to reach Australia and so it already comes with much acclaim.  It won a special jury prize when it premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.  It was also nominated for best animated film at the 2008 Academy Awards but it lost out to Ratatouille.  Just two weeks ago, the film won the audience award right here at the Brisbane International Film Festival.  There are a lot of people, myself included, who love this film.

The story is compelling but the movie’s style deserves praise.  Drawing the film in black and white gives it a dark, menacing tone.  The “bad guys” are actually quite scary.  You never quite feel at ease – you’ll feel a connection with Marjane and her parents but at the same time, you sense that something bad is going to happen to them.  Olivier Bernet’s film score helps build the tension.  I love a good ending and whether you like it or not, I think this film ends on a perfect note.

This one film I will remember for many years to come.