UCFS Series #3: Persepolis

This week’s film is Persepolis, an autobiographical adaptation of a graphic novel, co-directed by its author Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Based on Satrapi’s own experiences growing up in an Iranian revolutionary state, the film follows its protagonist Marji from Tehran to Vienna as she negotiates relationships, depression, and complicated feelings about culture. After leaving her family to avoid arrest, she quickly learns that life outside of Iran is not as simple as merely being free.
The story is deeply personal, not only by way of being a first-person account of warfare and rebellion, but also in the way it transforms a massive political revolution into a series of small but significant moments in the life of a young girl. The character of Marji is relatable and passionate; her struggle to retain individuality in the face of an oppressive fundamentalist regime is the heart of the film.
Persepolis also continues a coincidental thematic strand that links several of the Film Society’s fall screenings – the portrayal of disrupted adolescence. We saw frustrated defiance in Rebel Without a Cause and manipulative sexuality in Lolita, now Persepolis presents the loss of innocence and the struggle to find identity amid crisis and isolation. Complicated depictions of adolescence continue in upcoming UCFS screenings of Mommie Dearest and Suspiria.
In translating Satrapi’s story from comic to film, the decision was made to use predominantly monochromatic animation in order to preserve a universal quality to its themes. Satrapi wanted her story to be understood not through the perspective of otherness, but as something that audiences in any country could relate to. The animation is hand-drawn and deceptively simplistic- it deploys motion, shadow, and light to enhance and adapt the narrative grammar of a graphic novel for cinema. Persepolis exhibits a dynamic dreamlike world which accurately conveys the intense emotion of Satrapi’s story. The film is at once devastating, surprisingly funny, and beautifully poetic.
Persepolis is the first film in the UCFS’s series of international animation, and screens Friday October 2nd at 5pm in room SS 203. Hope to see you there!
By Katie Wackett
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