January 30th, 2008

Slartibartfast

Persepolis, Becoming Jane, Lust Caution

PersepolisPersepolis
Animated movie that is the big screen adaptation of the autobiographical graphic novels written by Marjane Satrapi. It tells her coming-of-age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. We see how the people's hopes get dashed as fundamentalists take power - forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the "social guardians" and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden.
The movie's mostly in black and white and the animation is "old-fashioned" two-dimensional. I haven't read the novels but I have no difficulties to imagine that they look exactly like the movie.

After sitting through quite a few epic, 2 1/2 hours long movies in recent months it was a nice change of pace to have so much story crammed into just ninety minutes. On the one hand it's sort of an introduction to the history of Iran of the late 1970s and 80s with the fall of the Shah regime, the start of the so-called Islamic Revolution and the long, bloody Iran-Iraq War. The movie shows the devastating effects those events had on Marjane and her friends and relatives which lead to her being sent to Austria at the age of fourteen.
And then there's the "normal" difficulties of growing up. In Austria she understandably feels very foreign. Weird people, strange German TV shows (Derrick) and ghastly Austrian music ("Live is Life"). She has her first encounters with the opposite sex and for a while she enjoys being in Vienna but eventually gets homesick and so she returns to Iran despite the fact that things there only have gotten worse. And that's only half of the story. Helping her through all her struggles are conversations with god and valuable advice from her grandmother (like how to keep your breasts firm).

So if you would like to find out what life was like growing up in Iran 20-30 years ago then I strongly recommend this original and charmingly animated movie. It's at the same time serious and funny. And some knowledge about history never hurts, especially next time somebody wants to tell you a fairy-tale about weapons of mass destruction.
And as I've learned from the movie's website, the title comes from the name of the ancient Persian capital that was built in the 6th century BC.


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