"Persepolis" is a 2007 animated film based on the memoirs of Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi first published her memoirs in two graphic novels, "Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood" and "Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return." Satrapi grew up in Tehran, Iran, during the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s. She tells the story of her liberal family who supported the uprising against the tyrannical Shah of Iran. However, the regime that followed proved to be even more repressive. The major parts of her story are set in Tehran and Vienna.
Persepolis serves just as well as the overall setting for the film. It is the name of the ancient Persian capital, built by Darius I in the 6th century B.C. and eventually destroyed by Alexander the Great. War, invasions, revolution and fanaticism can beat down a civilization and its people but cannot overcome their spirit. This is true of the individual as well. According to Satrapi, "I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists."
The beginning of "Persepolis" is set in Tehran in 1979. Young Marjane's family is affluent and liberal and neither she, nor her mother and grandmother wear a veil. Revolution is in the air and she witnesses riots in the streets. After the Shah is overthrown, a repressive Islamic theocracy takes hold of Iran. Her family chafes against social restrictions such as wearing the veil and the prohibition of liquor. Marjane openly defies her teachers in school. War with Iraq breaks out and Tehran becomes a battle zone. Marjane's parents, fearful for the spirited daughter's safety, send her to Vienna to complete her education.
Vienna in 1984 is like another world to the teenaged Marjane. The aisles of the supermarket are a place of wonder, filled with goods long unavailable in Tehran. Though initially intimidated by her new surroundings, Marjane finds friends among the local punk youth who find her background of revolution and war to be cool. She lives in a boarding house run by nuns, but their intolerance and her rebellious nature soon clash and she's forced to move out. Trying desperately to fit in, she enters a sexual relationship with a young man. When the love affair goes sour, she wanders the streets of Vienna, living as a homeless person. After a bout of sever bronchitis, she decides to return to Tehran.
By 1988, Iran's war with Iraq had concluded. The city streets of Tehran had been renamed for war martyrs. Adult Marjane now finds herself a stranger in her own land, forced to live with repressive laws. By day, she veils herself and wears baggy clothes. At night, she and her friends throw wild parties where they wear miniskirts, drink alcohol and listen to forbidden music. This is a dangerous activity. One night, Guardians of the Revolution raid the party and a young man falls to his death while attempting to escape. For the sake of her family, Marjane attempts to fit in, but finds she cannot live in such an oppressive society. In 1994, she decides to move to Paris.
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