Monday, June 23, 2008

'Persepolis' -- the animation movie based on a graphic novel


There are Westernised Iranians, who have absorbed Western notions of democracy and freedom as well as Western ideologies like communism, who have suffered under Reza Pahlavi's rule as well as that of Khomeini and the Islamists. Theirs has been the lot of a blighted class. Under Shah Reza Pahlavi, they were persecuted and reviled because they wanted a social and political revolution in favour of the poor and the oppressed. When the Khomeini revolution happened with the support of the poor, they hoped things would change before they were shell-shocked by the conservatism of another darker kind.
'Persepolis' narrates the experience of Marjane Satrapi, who belongs to a family of a cultured middle class with a communist orientation. She belonged to the enlightened class in the general sense of the term. Marjane's experience of being packed off to Vienna as a child to escape the harshness of the Pahlavi regime is a tale of pain and happiness. of finding a new country and an apparently familiar culture. It is in her first exile that Marjane finds the real differences beneath the surface of the glittering global pop culture of the American kind. She finds the youth in Vienna are quite ignorant and insensitive to the existence of old and proud civilisations like that of Iran.
Marjane comes back to Iran to witness the Khomeini revolution. The happiness soon turns into a bitter disappointment. She struggles to cope with the realities of her homeland, not willing to give up. But she finds the going too hard, and she goes into exile once again.
A sad story indeed, told through telling black and white images. There are poignant moments, as well witty and ironic ones. It shows the resilience of the ordinary people at a certain level.
But tbs is the tale of an outdated middle class with its quaint loyalty to ancient ideologies like that of communism. Of course, in the minds of many Third World country middle classes, communism and modernism are the same, which is a folly. And they are also naively ignorant of the tyrannies of communism.
The story of the disillusionment of Marjane is typical of the Westernised middle class in Iran and elsewhere. They are the genteel folk, who are not liked in their own country, and who are not respected in the West. This is the lost class with a lost cause of freedom and modernity understood in the most uncomplicated fashion.
Marjane is disillusioned with the dissolute Western youth and their hopeless anarchism. When she goes to France for her second exile, she knows what to expect -- loneliness.
The film is a simplistic but a nice portrayal of the agonies of Westernised, middle class Iran.

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