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Chiara Mastroianni
Catherine Deneuve
Simon Abkarian.
Marjane Satrapi
Vincent Paronnaud.
Running Time
96 minutes

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Franco-Iranian? Black-and-white? Brilliant!

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Marjane (Mastroianni) lives through the hopes of the Iranian Revolution in her home in Tehran. But during the Iran-Iraq war that follows, her parents (Abkarian and Deneuve) elect to send her abroad to study in safety. Things aren’t quite that simple, however.


From Pixar down, the general trend in animation over the last few years has been clear. The movement is towards ever more realistic and textured canvases that paint an exquisitely detailed world in glowing shades of pure, pixellated magic. Persepolis, however, is an exception to the rule, a throwback every bit as successful as Aardman’s work with clay. This largely black-and-white, defiantly undetailed and sometimes stylised film could have been made at any point since the dawn of cinema, and yet it’s a thoroughly modern affair.

An autobiographical tale that was written as a graphic novel, adapted for the screen and then co-directed by its chief character, Marjane Satrapi, this is a highly personal look at a situation of real complexity. Satrapi was six, born into a prosperous Tehran home, when the Iranian Revolution swept away the Shah Of Iran and the country’s autocracy was replaced with extremist rule. The war with Iraq that raged for seven years then destroyed much of Iran’s wealth, and the subsequent religious crackdowns killed any hope Satrapi and her family had of democratic freedom as well.

The film is at its strongest when examining the turbulent history of Iran through Marjane’s eyes. Marjane-as-a-child is one of the most appealing characters in years, happy to embrace new ideas like the latest Igglepiggle and believing herself, briefly, to be a prophet appointed by God. That’s not to say that she isn’t spoiled, wilful and occasionally cruel - witness Marjane and friends deciding to arm themselves with nails and torture a classmate whose father worked for the secret police. But there’s an innocence and exuberance to her schemes that is endlessly charming, and having a child as our guide perfectly pitches the history for those of us who know little about Iran’s murky politics. In a sense, the film is the antithesis of most modern animation: where they tell a relatively simple story using complex instruments, this uses very basic tools to tell a story about a very complex time.

The film’s second act, wherein Marjane grows up alone in Austria and loses her way, is less winning but still involving, a sometimes bleak counterpoint to her earlier optimism. But if that middle section introduces something of a minor note, the tempo picks up again with her return to a transformed, more hardline Iran. Still bolshy, Marjane doesn’t fit into that strictly monitored society, but it’s in that defiance that she rediscovers her zest for life.

That second half provides a powerful argument that our origins shape who we become - no matter how far we travel. Marjane can’t be content in Europe after being sent into exile from her home, but equally can’t stomach the restrictions of an Islamic state after being raised in a free Iran and then in Europe. The film is ultimately the story of her quest to find a balance between homeland and freedom, when her nation has failed to do the same. Satrapi’s willingness to acknowledge, and make fun of, her own faults makes this a story with real depth, and in these hysterical times, the sight of a young girl standing up to fundamentalist bullies is a vital counterpoint to the West’s tendency to tar all Middle Easterns with the same terrorist brush.

The monochrome animation is stark and beautiful, and Marjane’s an appealing narrator. Often hilarious, sometimes tragic, this may be low-tech, but it’s high-class.

Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Persepolis
Empire Star Rating

Intresting Film

Watched this yesterday, yeah it's depressing and grim at times but it's a intresting film. It has some funny, romantic and shocking moments during it's running time but I felt the ending was a little weak and you are left wondering what happens next to the lead character. So it's worth checking out but pay attention as it's not a easy watch though it's something different. ... More

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Posted by joanna likes films at 15:03, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


It's great but as usual the book is better.  The film skips over a few areas that really need covering.  Other than that I loved the animation and overall feel of the film. I agree that more non-superhero graphic novels need to be captured in film but at the same time maybe graphic novels do sometimes work better in their original format? ... More

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Posted by BuddyChrist at 17:00, 11 September 2008 | Report This Post



Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:03, 22 August 2008 | Report This Post

YES. ... More

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Posted by wooz at 18:03, 19 August 2008 | Report This Post


Animation is brilliant. First half is funny and scary. Second half drags but still an enjoyable, insightful, and interesting work. The early sequences in Iran are the best part of the movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:03, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post


Beautiful animation and some interesting scenes but seems to wonder into unnecessary areas. The second act in particular is weak. One paced. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 11:55, 14 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Persepolis

rs/Screenwriters: Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi g: Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes (voices) s n the true story of Marjane Satrapi (Mastroianni, Lopes), a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution. lm that was nominated for Best Animated Feature in this year's Oscars is based on a series of French-language autobiographical graphic novels by the film's co-director and co-writer Marjave Sat... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 15:22, 01 May 2008 | Report This Post

The first half of this film, showing more of the history of Iran, is very classy - child-Matrapi is a really entertaining character to watch. But as she gets older, she gets more pessimistic, more moody, more depressed, and the film becomes harder to watch (but I guess she has to be truthful to her own story). Beautiful animation. Bold and original, and great voice work. Recommended. ... More

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Posted by spikespiegel at 10:51, 21 April 2008 | Report This Post

it may be 'edgy' and 'different', but boy does it ram it in your face. ... More

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Posted by CameronJames at 00:13, 21 April 2008 | Report This Post

it may be 'edgy' and 'different', but boy does it ram it in your face. ... More

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Posted by CameronJames at 00:13, 21 April 2008 | Report This Post

Man, you've have to watch Persepolis.

The greatest animated film since Waking Life and Belleville Rendez-Vouz. Great Movie. Highly recommended. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 19:47, 05 April 2008 | Report This Post

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