Persepolis – Identifying with Darkness

Whenever watching a Hollywood mainstream film, I always wonder how does the American audience feels following a storyline similar to their own lives. It’s an envious feeling to watch a story similar to your own life, within the settings of your hometown, filled with emotions close to what they could have for being in shoes of a character they could wholeheartedly identify themselves with. Despite being very similar to my life, however Satrapi’s graphic novel in part fails to provoke emotions but extreme grief, melancholy and pity. Not because it’s not a good story, but because it’s very true to a kind of life that millions of Iranians including me and my peers have suffered. Some were lucky enough to leave the country like herself or me, and some had to stay and suffer, but talking from personal experience, even the luckiest couldn’t overcome the pain of leaving  motherland.

In it’s an hour and a half running time, Persepolis covers a whole lots of sensitive themes including stories of coming of age, Iranian revolution, women rights,immigrant life, family bounding, ethnicity and heritage and so on, however the most accurate portrayal of the Iranian people’s suffering after the revolution is what it stands out for. The dark animation allows foreign audience to comprehend and see things from the point f view of Iranians, understand the culture and realize the fact that an entire nation is controlled by a dogmatic dictatorship that deprives its citizens from most basic social rights.

Persepolis is one of the few mainstream distributions of western cinema that opens up the world’s eye to prove  the fact that Iranian’s are not savages, barbarians and terrorists, but culturally and ethically a well developed nation who are imprisoned by their own government.

Persepolis is an important film because it gives audience a lot of insider information about Iran, nothing that an agenda loaded news agency such as CNN or Fox could provide, but a satiric review of social life in contemporary Iran with hints on the role of British imperialism and its impact in their history as well as a critique of Europeans in the way that they deal with people from middle east.

Being an Armenian-Iranian myself I felt completely emotional through the course of the movie, but no matter how bitter Marjaneh’s life is she never falls into sentimentalism. The presence of the grandmother character is strong and critical throughout the film and it seems that even in the process of writing her graphic novel/biography she has constantly been influenced of her charm and witty character. What makes Grandma unique in this story is not only her wit for it’s a typical of many elderly Iranians, but it’s about who she represents. To me the grandma is a symbol of  ancient Iranian values and spirits that goes back to the earliest civilizations of Persia. She plants the seed of rightfulness in Marjaneh and no matter how ugly the world becomes she insist on her to follow the right path and to be true to herself. Although she has wonderful parents who are educated and well-balanced enough to raise her normally in those enigmatic circumstances but it’s the grandma, representing an older generation Iranians, who is capable helping her bring calm to her own life. Even god and Marx are not more than a childhood fantasy when it comes to her fundamental decisions. Her parents are a symbols of Iranians who did the revolution but then realized it was a big mistake. They represent the kind of Iranians who are stuck between the tradition and modernist values and confronted with thoughts of Marxism and socialism have a hard time digesting the true nature of democracy in an Islamic state. Marjaneh on the other hand is the next generation, those who grow up in this new Islamic state and realize that a revolution is not necessary the means of freedom.