A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this film -- an adaptation of graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi's critically acclaimed memoir about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution -- is animated, it's aimed at adults. There are many references to the atrocities (mostly executions and bombings) of life before, during, and after the revolution. Several scenes involve secret parties during which secular Iranians drink and smoke; as a teenager living in Europe, Marjane also drinks, smokes, tries hash, and sleeps with two guys (at one point, feeling suicidal, she also takes lots of pills). If teens are interested, they'll learn a lot about the harsh realities of life in an oppressive culture. It's worth noting that there are two versions of the film: The original is in French with subtitles; the other is dubbed in English.
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What's the story?
Based on writer-director Marjane Satrapi's award-winning graphic novel, PERSEPOLIS closely follows her life as she comes of age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Narrated by Chiara Mastroianni as the adult Marjane, the alternatingly funny and heartbreaking story chronicles how Marjane's immediate family kept their ideals under increasingly oppressive regimes.
Is it any good?
Like Art Spiegelman's seminal Holocaust-themed graphic novel Maus, this stirring film explains history from the point of view of one family. More particularly, it focuses on Marjane herself -- from grade-schooler to young adult. The secular, educated Satrapis survive as loved ones are imprisoned, tortured, and executed -- first under the Shah and later under the Islamic revolutionaries. Throughout the years, Marjane is drawn to Western popular culture from Bruce Lee and Bee Gees to Iron Maiden and the Rocky III anthem "Eye of the Tiger" -- even though it's forbidden to own any unapproved books or music.
Marjane's grounding force is her rebellious grandma (voiced by Danielle Darrieux), who makes the girl promise not to lose sight of her family's progressive beliefs and the reasons why her beloved uncle and countless others have died. But sometimes Marjane can't help acting tad immature -- even reckless. That's what makes the film so touching: Amid cultural repression, Marjane, her family, and their close friends still manage to find small ways to subvert authority. And thanks to the regular doses of adolescent humor, this distinctly Iranian tale becomes a universal story anyone can appreciate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how "the West" is portrayed in the film. Why is American pop culture banned in Iran? What makes it threatening?
How is Marjane's family different? How does Marjane "betray" her heritage once she's abroad? What did you learn about Iranian history and culture from the film?
Do you think that animation was an effective way to tell Marjane's story? How would it have been different if it was live action?
- In theaters: December 25, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: June 24, 2008
- Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Danielle Darrieux
- Director: Marjane Satrapi
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content.