A number of elements about Persepolis will bother many people in the general movie-going population. First, Persepolis is an animated feature. Not anime, per se, and not in color, for the most part. The true biographical story of Marjane, an Iranian girl, is told in mostly black, white, and grey.
Another element many in the general movie-going population will find annoying are the English subtitles, as the story of Marjane is told in French.
Being an animated feature, one might be tempted to think this movie is more for children. If I had children, and they were in high school, I would watch the movie with them. Otherwise, the movie is for children through adults, ages 14 through infinity.
Let’s face reality, the vast majority of movies produced are not going to change one’s life. Good movies will open one’s eyes, though, and allow unique perspectives through that will offer us an opportunity to view life from another perspective. To put us in another’s shoes, in other words. Persepolis puts us in the shoes of an Iranian girl, and we grow as she grows.
Set aside the biases against watching movies with subtitles, and against watching animated movies, and allow Marjane to tell her story!
Her story is not only a story of herself; no, her story is a story of Iran. From the days of the Shah of Iran through the Iranian Revolution and into the 1990s, the compelling story of Iranian religion and politics is witnessed first-hand by Marjane.
Through Marjane, we see revolution, war, punishment, Sharia, and oppression. Iranians, despite these elements in their lives, still continue to find ways to lives the lives they want, to find ways of holding onto the lives they knew. Dancing and music, alcohol, smoking, and consorting with the opposite sex were punishable offenses. The risks of defying the religious regime could result in fines, prison, or death, yet they still found ways to have fun. Who could think that a Michael Jackson pin on a jacket, or debating the best rock band might result in such severe punishments?
Friends, acquaintances, and students often ask me after viewing such movies, “did that really happen; is that true?” For some movies, obviously some details are embellished by Hollywood, some stereotypes are overblown. Hollywood can mix truth and fiction remarkably well – but that is their job: entertainment at the price of truth.
To the best of my knowledge, all of the events, the fall of the Sh
ah (whom the U.S. put into power in the first place – see Operation Ajax ), the Iranian Revolution, the purges, the War with Iraq, the execution of prisoners, along with the strict enforcement of cultural and religious codes, are all true. I would say that even today, most of these restrictions are still currently true.
As the movie is watched, note the changes in the Iranian culture and how those are made manifest upon the genders. Watch as those rules are placed upon Iranian society and how Iranian society responds.
As Americans, we tend to think that people who live in countries outside of ours like their government, particularly if we have little to no understanding of that country. “Oh, they must like it, or they would do something about it.” We stereotype people, judge people, and by judging people, we judge their culture. By viewing Persepolis, the powerlessness of the Iranian people should come through. Iranians are not that much different that Americans.
If our government became a hard-line Christian regime, do you think that many people would take the alcohol, smokes, dancing, magazines, and music underground? Hell, yeah, we would!
Watch this movie!