Friday, February 24, 2012

Oscar-Worthy Graphic Novel Films: Persepolis

This post is the third part of an article I was asked to write for the Houston Public Library blog. The final article will be posted some time in the near future, in its entirety, on that website.


Biographies and cultural studies aren’t usually my reading preferences, but Marjane Satrapi’s remarkable account of her childhood growing up in the repressive atmosphere of Iran in the late 1970s into the 1980s is a noteworthy exception.  It was published in 2000 by Pantheon Books, at first in French, and then in English, when the two existing volumes were combined into one book.  The film, animated in the same style as the graphic novel, was made in 2007, written and directed by Satrapi with Vincent Paronnaud.

The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 80th Academy Awards.  It lost to Ratatouille.

Plot: Just before her return to Iran, teenage Marjane Satrapi remembers her childhood in 1978 Tehran, where she is a charming and headstrong young girl whose aspiration is to become a prophet.  Her parents are active in the political movements of the Iranian Revolution, and Marji’s outspoken manner cause them to fear for her safety, and they send her to France to live for a few years.  Despite making friends, her sense of isolation becomes unbearable, and she returns to Iran as a young woman who must struggle to regain her sense of cultural identity.  She eventually does so, and once again finds life in Iran to be too oppressive.  She leaves Iran for good this time, but not before coming to terms with her identity as an Iranian.

Differences from the graphic novel: A few, but this animated feature is for the most part remarkably faithful to the style and presentation of the graphic novel.  The animation style in particular looks very much like the director simply had the book animated and put to motion, making an ideal bridge to the source material for movie-goers.  The scenes that take place in the “present” (relative to the rest of the story) are done in color, which was never present in the original story, though this is for just a minute segment of the film.  A few minor dialog and plot changes were made, none of which had a significant impact on the story.  For instance, after getting home from nearly being arrested as a child, Marji sings “Kids In America” in the graphic novel, where in the film she blasts a song from an Iron Maiden tape--which, amusingly, is not an Iron Maiden song at all, but a song by the films composer, Olivier Bernet.

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