Persepolis is Personal

I always read film reviews. Sometimes I read them beforehand to try to gauge whether I want to see the film or not. Other times, I go into the film blindly and then read the reviews afterwards to see if they would have helped me to decide on whether to see it or not. In the case of Persepolis, I was glad to have gone in to the viewing “blindly.”

The user (not professional) reviews seemed to be a battle of variations of “I’m Iranian, and this makes America think worse of Iran” and “I’m Iranian, and this seems to be a pretty accurate picture of what it was like.” As always, with something that purports to be autobiographical, it was attacked as twisting history or being inaccurate in this or that way.

As someone who knows very little about Iran apart from 1980s US propaganda that generally portrayed all non-Israeli Middle-Eastern countries as windy deserts full of dark-skinned, angry, violent terrorist types (yes, I’m that American); I found it to portray (accurately or not) Iran and Iranians rather positively. More importantly, I don’t think the narrative of the film (I haven’t read the graphic novels yet, so I can’t comment on any difference there) in any way tries to put in a master narrative that says “This is what really happened.” The story is clearly told in its entirety from the point of view of the protagonist. When recounting her experiences in both Europe and Iran, she is honest about the limits of her perception. Either way, it portrays (accurately or inaccurately) Iran as a beautiful country that has gone through a lot of strife, with most people just trying to get by while governmental powers, both within and without, screw them over.

If I had any criticism of the film, it wouldn’t be of the film itself but of the protagonist—much as we sympathize with her because she is the main character, she is still a brat, in the end. She comes from privilege. Her parents and grandmother are a godly model of love to her, way beyond what she deserves. When she ends up destitute in Vienna, it appears to be fully her own fault, so it’s a little difficult to feel sorry for her… same with just about every “tragic” situation in the movie that doesn’t involve someone dying.

The brat can be cute and funny sometimes, though.