Persepolis Persepolis is a film about an Iranian girl, trying to find her own identity. From the time she was nine, she was already having multiple identities, some that conflicted with others. Her struggle followed her through the years as she grew older, left her home country, returned, and then left once more permanently. Persepolis opens up with Marjane Satrapi looking back to her youth at the age of nine, living in Tehran, Iran with her parents in the year 1978. At this time, the country was under the Iranian revolution where the Iranian people wanted to overthrow the monarchy.
This happened under the Shah, Mohammad Reza and then was replaced by the Islamic Fundamentalist government. The nation was under chaos, where there were murders, protests, tortures, and innocent people sent to jail. The film is in black and white and is animated, but not into a cartoon. I think this sets the tone of the movie. It makes it very abstract and hence, easy for people from all over the world to relate. They do not see specific landmarks. They see a town like any other, which could even be anyone’s hometown.
Marjane’s autobiography tells us that she was having trouble developing self-identity, and that she could not find her place both physically, and within herself. There are many external pressures that affect Marjane and that confuse her identities. In the very beginning, when she was very young, she supported the Shah, because that is what was being taught in school. Her parents decided to tell her the realities of the country, and as a result, she decided to be against the Shah.
We see here that the external pressures of society, and more closely, the people she looked up, her teacher and her parents, confuse Marjane to the point where she is on both sides of the political spectrum that the country is experiencing. I think that it had to be hard for a nine year old to understand the reality of what was going on in the country and so she was being influenced the closest adults in her life. I think anyone can relate to that, and not just at a young age. People often tend to side with the ideals of the closest people in their life.
And so it is no surprise that she easily changes her mind when it comes to supporting the Shah. Another external pressure seen in the film is when she goes back to Iran after being in Vienna, and although the Iran-Iraq War is over, the new rules make her feel as if she does not belong. When you are put into circumstances where you are to follow strict rules, it is hard for anyone to be themselves and therefore, have trouble finding one’s self-identity. I believe that conformity impedes the development of one’s own identity.
For one is only following what is necessary to survive. One of the primary reasons as to why Marjane had such a problem developing self-identity was because she had many internal struggles that she had to live with while trying to figure out what she wanted in life and who she wanted to be. When Marjane was still a little girl, she was often told to keep quiet, especially if what she had to say went against the state. She once got up from her desk and told the teacher how she felt.
Marjane was a very outspoken little girl and that oftentimes got her in trouble which led to her not being able to be who she wanted to be. I believe that when one cannot express their own opinions, they often feel like they are in a hostile environment within themselves. For example, if I would not be able to say which sport team I like the best because Wesleyan liked the opposing team and I would get bad grades if I went ahead and proclaimed my favorite team, I would not be myself and would have trouble with my identity as a sports fan.
Another internal struggle that Marjane had to live with, especially while in Vienna was feeling ashamed of being an Iranian. Where you come from is a big part of someone’s identity, and when you are hiding that, in essence, you are hiding a part of yourself. To me, this is one of the reasons why Marjane had a hard time developing her identity during her time in Vienna, because she was denying who she was and where she came from. So why was this title chosen for the story of Marjane’s life? Persepolis” is the ancient Greek name for Iran that literally means “city of Persians. ” I think that this title is appropriate because it alludes to the past of Iran and how it was often taken over. It also relates to the way her country is being taken over during the time that she describes her story. This story relates to Maalouf’s book, In the Name of Identity in that he is also struggling to describe the way people identify themselves.
He says that as humans, we take one little part of a person’s life or experience and turn it into identity. I think we can see that with Marjane when she met her uncle, and decided that she was a Marxist, or after the new regime, she decided that she was going to rebel against it. So the parts in her life like marriage, or the experiences, like living in Vienna, gave Marjane the many identities with which she could be described. Or one can also say that the many experiences hindered the way with which she can develop and describe her identity.