Revolution#135, July 13, 2008

Check It Out:

Persepolis—The DVD

“If people come to the film and say these people are humans like us, the film is successful.”

Marjane Satrapi, about her film Persepolis

I wanted to alert the readers of Revolution to the recent release of the DVD version of the film Persepolis, which originally came out in 2007, played to great critical acclaim in movie theaters in many countries, and was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars this February. The DVD of this animated film is now available to rent or buy at various outlets.

Persepolis is based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical novel, done in black-and-white comic-strip images, of the same title. Satrapi, who grew up in Iran and now lives in France, co-directed and co-wrote the movie with Vincent Paronnaud (aka Winshluss), a French comics artist and filmmaker. It tells the story of contemporary Iran through the eyes of a rebellious girl/young woman with a rich imagination and a passion for, among other things, Bruce Lee and the British metal band Iron Maiden. They’ve created a unique work that’s at once magical and very real, funny, and profoundly moving.

When Persepolis played in U.S. theaters, it had French dialogue with English subtitles. The new DVD includes a version with English dialogue, along with the original French version. (There is an option for viewing with Spanish subtitles.) In the English version, three of the major characters are voiced by Sean Penn (Marjane’s father, Ebi), Iggy Pop (her Uncle Anoush), and Gena Rowlands (her grandmother). Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve—two of France’s most renowned women actors who played Marjane and her mother in the original—also lent their voices to the English version.

The DVD includes several “special features,” including a look “behind the scenes” at the making of Persepolis and selected scene commentaries, including Satrapi on the opening scene—one of only a few in the film done in color (she explains why).

If you did not catch Persepolis in the theaters, the DVD is a definite “must see.” If you were fortunate enough to have seen the original on the big screen, the English version gives a fresh perspective. Stephan Roche, the film’s editor, points out, “It’s really interesting to see how actors can bring to the movie their own personalities. The French version is one movie, and the English version for me is another one.”

I won’t get into the plot of the movie, which is fairly straightforward in one sense, but which also has different levels of complexity in the intertwining of people’s lives with big historical events and social issues—just as the film’s black-and-white hand-drawn animation is “minimalist” in certain ways but at the same time quite textured and deeply expressive. But here’s a comment from Gena Rowlands, which gives a sense of the film’s sweep: “Well, the story itself is compelling: Little girl growing up under the Shah’s regime, and then revolutionary things, the different changes of great magnitude in a country—she’s just a young woman still—that she experiences as a child, and up to the present day when there’s still a great deal of conflict.” And this from Satrapi: “Of course the movie is political too. But it’s not only that. The movie is much more about humans—it’s a coming-of-age story about how to be an adolescent, how to love. It’s not so much I’m so interested in politics. The problem is that politics is interested in me. And in you.”

Last October, A World to Win News Service ran a really good review, from the Iranian student publication Barz, that went into different aspects of the film. The review is available online at

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