We’ve inadvertently found ourselves steeped in Iranian films and articles over the last few days. When I put two and two together, after reading an interesting piece in the Guardian Family over the weekend, I came to the rather late conclusion that we are marking the 30th anniversary of the changes in Iran. I was around at the time, and remember that we thought it would be for the better, until it became clear that it wasn’t.
I had read quite a bit about Marjane Satrapi and her cartoon style story about her childhood and coming from Iran to Europe, but I somehow managed to miss the film. I’d read about it, and knew I wanted to see it, but then it disappeared from my radar. Luckily for me it reappeared at Cornerhouse yesterday for a one-off viewing.
As Daughter and I made our way there, I gave her the briefest possible background to Iran, in case it would turn out to be needed. (They don’t cover much in schools these days.) As it turned out it was almost not necessary, as Persepolis covered the more recent history pretty well. If viewed solely as a history lesson, it was 90 minutes well spent, but it’s obviously much more than that.
Persepolis covers the time from when Marjane was a small child, through the revolution and the war, being sent to school in Vienna, returning home to Iran, getting married and divorced, and moving to Paris on her own. Putting it all into one sentence like that makes it look quite easy and simple, but in reality it must have been horrendous.
Daughter remarked that it had been really dark in parts, and it certainly was. But it was also very funny and amusing. The cartoon style simultaneously lightens the story and makes it possible to show all the bad events. It’s the mix of small stroppy child who says amusing things, and seeing friends and relatives imprisoned and executed, that’s so well done. I doubt it could have been done in any other way than as a black and white cartoon. You see the blood, but it’s not red.
I had expected to get the English language version of the film, but on consideration the French one made for more sense of what it was like for Marjane. Cornerhouse was packed. So even for a brief return, Persepolis was very popular.