I have been a great fan of animation movies and cartoons for as long as I can remember. I am told that, as a kid, I never used to have lunch without the daily dose of Tom & Jerry Cartoons which used to air on DD..!
I have my share of favourites of which Pixar movies top the list. Be it the toys that talk in ‘Toy Story’; or the monsters that power their own city by scaring people; or the quest of a clown fish to find his son in ‘Finding Nemo’; or the story of anthropomorphic cars in ‘Cars’; or the tale of a gifted rat that aspired to be a chef in ‘Ratatouille’; or more recently, the academy award winning movie about a Waste allocation Robot, ‘Wall-E’; Pixar always comes up with something new and innovative. As Steve Jobs puts it “Pixar is the most technically advanced creative company; Apple is the most creatively advanced technical company.”
There’s also Dreamworks studios, a brainchild of one of my favourite directors of all time, Steven Speilberg, that has made many good animation movies like ‘The Prince of Egypt’, ‘Spirit : The stallion of Cimarron’, ’Madagascar’, ‘Bee Movie ‘ and the comical ‘Kung Fu Panda’. But Pixar is a tad above Dreamworks when it comes to quality and innovation. As a result, they have more Oscars to their credit.
Away from these two giants and the Japanese Anime monopoly, comes Persepolis, a touching story about a young Iranian girl set in the times of the Islamic Revolution. The movie opens with the protagonist, a young woman Marjane, waiting at the Paris airport to board a flight to Teheran. This is followed by a black and white account of her past: her childhood and teenage years. The movie shows Marjane growing up from an innocent, inquisitive girl to a matured woman; with the Iranian political oppression as the background. One of the things that makes this movie unique is that a lot of it is told from the point of view of a child that does not really understand the politics of what is going on around her.
The tone of almost the entire movie is dark and this helps in emphasizing the injustice that the women were subjected to during the conflict in the 70s-80s. The simple animation that we haven’t seen for a long time, thrusts the viewer into her shoes. I don’t want to let out any spoilers. There are many moments in the film which can make us feel lucky that we are living in a democracy. There are also many hilarious moments in the film which were accentuated with the simple animation. Post her break up with her boyfriend, Marjane relives the moments with him where he is shown to be a freak..! And at the beginning a flashback shows the British government’s role in manipulating Iranian politics for its selfish motives. This scene is depicted as a puppet show, providing a new, fresh, and very apt angle. Detailed animation may have killed those moments. A character which is definitely worth a mention is Marjane’s grandmother. She provides complete moral support to Marjane and shows her the few rights from the many wrongs.
As for the name Persepolis, it was coined by the Greeks to denote the ancient Persian capital, which in contemporary world is in ruins. The movie Persepolis works because it handles an uncomfortable subject with grace, using a simple and effective storytelling technique. Animation is no longer just for kids. This is a mature film which just happens to be animated in form…!