Fiery the angels fell (and other moments)

I want to talk about a beautiful film that lives long in the memory. Don’t you love when a movie does that? I can never forget the soliloquy at the end of Blade Runner, you know the one…the one about the rain and life. Odd thing about Blade Runner is that it’s sometimes ignored by sections of the viewing public because it is Sci-Fi. Genre plays an important role in how we decide what to watch. Up to a point cartoon films were firmly in the genre marked: Children’s movies but somewhere around the late nineties Pixar began producing animation that had nods and winks to the parents in the audience and all of a sudden animated films became socially acceptable. Of course, Pixar are not short of money so their films are very slick and digital: high-end stuff that teaches simple enough morals about the values and mores of the western world. The film I want to talk about is the opposite in every way firstly it isn’t digital secondly it is black and white and thirdly it is set in the Islamic world. Persepolis is a 2007 film based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name. Persepolis means city of Persians and the story is a Bildungsroman of a young girl called Marji as she comes to terms with the effects of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Again, we are in a different world from Pixar et al as this films deals with politics, religion, revolution and the way in which the individual deals with all three. It is also a film about love: familial and romantic love and the ways in which Marji has to deal with the beauty and pain that exists in both.

 

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Like all good history it allows us to make sense of seismic events through the eyes of the individual. It constantly reminds us that behind ideology there are human stories and behind every revolutionary dream there are groups willing to seize power and clamp down on dissent. We see the downfall of the Shah and the rise of fundamentalism in Iran as one torturous regime leads to yet another oppressive regime. It is the classic story of revolution: we have the revolutionary moment leading to rupture and then the return of the status quo. Marji is a rebellious girl and her ideas of the world clash with that of the new theocratic leadership for one she likes to listen to punk and heavy metal. This is itself is an act of revolt as it is perceived as western and decadent by the powers that be. We see the way in which girls and women lose their freedom in the new Iran we see Marji packed off to Europe (where she meets discrimination due to her nationality) and we see her spiral into depression due to everything she has experienced and witnessed. Revolutions, more often than not go wrong and it is the masses, the ones that had suffered previously, that suffer all over again. I don’t want to spoil the ending but it lives long in the memory and serves as a fitting coda to what has gone before. Yes, Persepolis may not be highly polished in the way that animation has become under the digital age, you may not be able to see every hair individually move or there may not be countless references to other franchises but for all that it is a movie that deals with, rather than nods at, adult themes whilst all the time wearing its heart on its sleeve, which is no bad thing. Go see it.

 

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  1. Ha ha. I was lulled into a false sense of security waiting for a commentary on Blade Runner but got Persepolis instead! I will go see it 🙂

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