I just saw Persepolis, and I am in awe.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, you need to check out either the Graphic Novels by Marjane Starpi by that same name or the 2007 Oscar nominated film (the one I am talking about right now). I read the books before and just saw the movie yesterday, and the movie has literally blown my mind. Filmed in Pencil-drawn black and white animation, the movie takes us into the story of Marjane during her childhood as the Shah is about to fall, through living with the Aftermath of the Iranian revolution and the newly founded Islamic regime. The animation-which is an odd choice in the age of 3D generic crap- is really what makes this film special, especially that its dark feel adds to the stark brutality of the scenes of violence or its aftereffects. The use of black and white and shadows only gives Persepolis the feel and quality of film noir. When its dark, its the stuff of nightmares, especially for someone like me, but when its humorous, it is silly, lighthearted and uplifting; such are the contradictions of this film. I mean, this is the kind of film that is austere in many ways and yet boasts a
sequence in which the heroine sings “Eye of the Tiger” in broken
English. How could you not love that? (Also, the dream sequence between Marjane, God and Marx, well, that's the stuff of greatness).
The movie chronicles Satrapi's efforts to reconcile the Iran she loves with a country upended by war and extremism, and it is a tribute to one young woman's stubborn resilience and a
reminder that people are people, regardless of how their governments
may want them to behave, and how people inherently understand the essence of evil presented to them by those ruling them, even if they do share the same or similar beliefs to them. I literally cringed at the scene where Marjane's maid was crying while holding the key the authorities gave to her 14 year old boy, telling him that it's the "Key to Heaven" if he choses to join the army and die a martyr, because I can see this getting deployed here, easily, if for whatever reason we are ruled by Islamists who might feel like starting a war with Israel and we started to lose badly. What's even scarier, I can see it working.
But if there is one thing that did break my heart upon viewing the movie for a second time, it's the assurances of Marjane's great Marxist Uncle, as the revolution stops being about getting rid of the Shah and starts slowly but surely become about installing a far worse theocratic regime. I could see every single marxist or leftist friend I know here who fights for the right of the MB and who believes himself to be in the same boat with them sitting just like him in a chair, re-assuring everyone that there is "no need to worry. It will get better. Half of the country is illiterate. It's normal and natural for them to vote for islamic rule", until the very next scene, where the new regime decided that they need to get rid of all the other enemies of the old regime, and arrested the man again, only executing him this time. And while I might think of those friends of mine as naive, idealistic or misguided, I wouldn't ever want them dead. But then again, I don't have the audacity or the arrogance of ever claiming to represent what God wants us to be like. Even my Ego has its limits.
The question of the movie becomes immediately that of: What does one do in such a situation? Marjane's family is obviously well-off, educated, westernized and mostly secular, something that I can relate to greatly, and they find themselves suddenly surrounded by uneducated bearded men who believe in their absolute moral authority to do as they damn well please, no matter what the consequences- even if the consequences are the destruction of a country. What does one do in such a situation? The obvious solution – to stay away from Iran, or whatever your respective country may be – isn't easy, and the movie emphasizes that above all else. The
predominant theme of Persepolis is not war or repression but the pull
of home, no matter one's location. That home can be a state of mind, and that it follows you everywhere. And this rings true to me. As much as I am horrified of the direction my country is taking, I can't find myself able to leave it, even when presented the opportunity last year by a reader I am very grateful to. I love this country, I think it's beautiful, and I believe it to be mine. Why would I ever leave it to those who only see it as some part of a greater empire, whether Arabic or Islamic? The more and more you deal with Islamists, the less scary they get, because you realize that you are facing the morally and intellectually bankrupt whose only weapon is fear. But they are such cowards themselves, that they can't ward off or face off against anyone who stands up to them without threatening them outwards with violence. And if that day comes and they rule this land, well, I have a feeling that they will have to kill me and thousands and thousands like me, because we won't shut up and they will have no answer than that provided via a sword. There will be blood, no two ways about it.
Thank God we are not there..