Persepolis is a 2007 animated film based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. The film was written and directed by Satrapi with Vincent Paronnaud. The story follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, which goes horribly wrong with Islamic fundamentalists taking power and creating a new theocratic tyranny themselves; the story ends with Marjane as a 21-year-old expatriate. The title is a reference to the historic city of Persepolis.
The film won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was released in France and Belgium on June 27. In her acceptance speech, Satrapi said "Although this film is universal, I wish to dedicate the prize to all Iranians. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Unfortunately, the hopes of the family are profoundly disappointed when Islamic Fundamentalists win the ensuing elections and force Iranian society into its own kind of repressive state, which ranges from forcing women to dress modestly including the Hijab, to rearresting and executing Anouche for his political beliefs. Profoundly disillusioned, Marji rejects her prophetic aspirations and tries with her family to fit into the reality of the intolerant regime. Even as both the horrors of the Iran-Iraq war and blatant injustices occur such as an unqualified government appointed hospital administrator refusing to help a critically ill relative go abroad for medical treatment and thus precipitating their death, the family tries to find some solace in secret parties where they can enjoy simple pleasures the government has outlawed. However as she grows up, Marji refuses to stay out of trouble whether its secretly buying Western heavy metal music on the black market, wearing unorthodox clothing such a denim jacket celebrating punk rock with a Michael Jackson button, or openly rebutting a teacher's lies about the abuses of the government.
Fearing her arrest for her outspokenness, Marji's parents send her to a school in Vienna, Austria where she could have safety and plenty. Unfortunately, Marji feels intolerably isolated in a foreign land surrounded by annoyingly superficial people who take their freedoms and peace for granted while making her feel ashamed of being Iranian. This culminates in a passionate love affair with a debonair native that traumatically ends when she discovers him cheating on her. Marji falls into a deep clinical depression that drives her into homelessness where she nearly dies of bronchitis before she is rescued off the streets.
Eventually, Marji returns to Iran with her family's permission and hopes that the conclusion of the war would mean an improved life there. After her natural depression over the state of affairs in Iran is misdiagnosed as clincal depression (and given drugs that only deepen her ennui), she finds that Iranian society is more tyrannized than ever with atrocities like mass executions for political beliefs and petty religious absurdities and hypocrisies that make living as both an art student and a woman intolerable. To cope, Marji resorts to personal survival tactics such as falsely accusing a man of making a pass at her to avoid being arrested for wearing make up (which disgusts her beloved grandmother for being so craven) and marrying her boyfriend over her mother's feminist objections to avoid scrutiny by the religious police.
Eventually, as her marriage falls apart, things come to a head when a secret party is raided by the police which results in a friend being killed trying to escape and Marji openly confronting the blatant sexist double standard in a school forum on public morality that singles out women. After these incidents and her divorce that is encouraged by her Grandmother, the family decides that Marji must leave the country again and this time permanently to avoid her being targeted by the authorities as a political dissident. Although Marji agrees, she pays the price with her grandmother dying soon after her departure.
Back to present day, Marji once again is unable to return to Iran, and she takes a taxi from the airport. When the driver asks where she is from, she sighs, "Iran," implying that she is finally comfortable with herself, and her heritage, despite her self-imposed exile. Her final memory is of her grandmother telling her how she put jasmine in her brassiere to allow her to smell fresh every day.
The film is black and white in the style of the original graphic novels. The "present day" scenes are shown in color, while sections of the historic narrative resemble a shadow theater show. To help with the translation of the comic to animation, art director and executive producer Marc Jousset came up with the design. The animation is credited to the Perseprod studio and was created by two specialized studios: Je Suis Bien Content and Pumpkin 3D.
The film was released in Canada with the original French soundtrack and English subtitles; the US release was redubbed in English for some locations. Mastroianni and Deneuve reprise their roles in English, but Father is played by Sean Penn, Uncle Anouche by Iggy Pop and Grandmother by Gena Rowlands. Laurie Metcalf also has a small role as the mother of a young teenage boy.
Time magazine's Richard Corliss named the film one of the Top 10 Movies of 2007, ranking it at #6. Corliss praised the film, calling it “a coming-of-age tale, that manages to be both harrowing and exuberant.”
Despite such objections, the Iranian cultural authorities relented in February 2008 and allowed limited screenings of the film in Tehran, albeit with half a dozen scenes censored due to sexual content.
In June 2007, the film was dropped from the lineup of the Bangkok International Film Festival. Festival director Chattan Kunjara na Ayudhya stated, "I was invited by the Iranian embassy to discuss the matter and we both came to mutual agreement that it would be beneficial to both countries if the film was not shown" and "It is a good movie in artistic terms, but we have to consider other issues that might arise here.
Persepolis was nearly banned in Lebanon.
The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.