As an avid reader, reading “Persepolis” by author Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian-born, French contemporary graphic novelist, and illustrator, was an incredible and thought-provoking experience as well as an opportunity to broaden my horizons. As Iran enters another important period of change, with relations reopening with much of the world, Satrapi carries an important and much-needed conversation.
Satrapi’s “Persepolis” is her memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It covers her childhood in Tehran, the end of Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastations of the war with Iraq. Funny yet heartbreaking, the book shows the consequences of the war through a child’s point of view and teaches us how we carry on in life even in the face of absurdity.
Her work has been lauded by Emma Watson, who writes her “deceptively simple, almost whimsical drawings belie the seriousness and rich complexity of her story,” though it is also incredibly humorous and enjoyable.
And as passionate writers and storytellers, Satrapi and I hope to help fellow readers expand their libraries with titles that matter.
“It’s certainly not the documentary about my life, and it certainly is subjective point of view, and is certainly that when you may cast script, you know, part of that storytelling we should never forget it,” Satrapi said of her work in an exclusive interview with Movie Web. “So if I pretend that it is 100 percent autobiographical that means that a dog looks like a dog that I draw that this thing I said exactly I said this thing, which is not true. Of course is a part of storytelling — is based on my own experiences and then you know you have to me make a story. I think even documentaries, they are, they are part fictional. As soon as you you make a story you have to have some fiction, otherwise it doesn’t work.”
The book was in many ways her answer to misperceptions and misrepresentations of Iran and a way to tell a multifaceted true story.
“Well, you know that was really my answer to the words — to the word because you know the two times that left Iran in 84 and in 94 I heard so many crazy things about… Iran,” Satrapi said in the interview. “People they wear saying and I was right this is not like this this is not like that. And you know… that is a choice reality that you see on the TV channel. That I don’t say doesn’t exist, it does, but it is many other realities that we never see, so you know, that was really to say this… I will give you at least another point of view, is a very personal one just engage my own person, but this is it and so that was the beginning, how I started it, and of course you know I I wrote it five years after I left Iran the second time.”
She distanced herself from the story to not interject her own emotions and opinions or allow them to overshadow the themes in her work.
“Because you know, I needed to have distance with the story,” Satrapi said in the interview. “I didn’t have to be angry anymore. I didn’t have any violence in me, because you know you cannot answer to the stupidity by stupid, you can not answer to the violence by violence. So it’s extremely important to take a step back and look at the thing. So that is what I tried to do and that was the reason I made it in the first place.”
Satrapi blatantly admits she never wanted a movie to be made based on the novel, and feels the adaptation should stay true to the core of the original.
“That was a mess because I never wanted to do that, and I always thought it was a very bad idea, I still do is that because you’re a good cartoonist that you become a good movie-maker,” Satrapi confessed to Movie Web. “And it’s not that because something work as a comic that it will work as a movie. But knowing that was very good because I knew the danger of the project, that you shouldn’t make an adaptation, we had a translation. We had to really make an adaptation.”
It was a friend’s desire that originally nudged her in this direction, but to make a film, she needed to translate a novel to cinematography
“That means forgetting about the book, taking the material and turning it into a cinematographic language,” Satrapi said in the interview. “But I made it because a friend of mine wanted to become a producer, you know, and I was like, you know, I would like to work with my best friend Vincent, and I want a studio in Paris, and I want this, and I want that — and he say, “Yeah, okay.” And I was like, shit, now I have to do it so that is how it started.”
Her message is a universal one of perspective and acceptance.
“To get a woman’s point of view who lives in Iran — it’s not a woman or a man,” Satrapi said in the interview. “You know, the fact is that I am a woman, you know, if I was not a woman I would be a man. It is a very personal point of view. Since I didn’t want that to become political, historical, or sociological statement, I had to write it in my name. I had to put it in my name. It happens that I’m a woman, but it’s a human point of view, and really if there is one message in this movie is the humanistic message is that human being, anywhere, is the same.”
Satrapi emphasizes the importance of the rights to dream, to live, and to be seen as worthy despite a complicated situation.
“And they have the right to live, because they have dreams, because they have love, because they have parents and kids, and the life of all of us is worth something,” Satrapi said in the interview. “And then we have to understand the situation is not as easy as we think.”
(Video courtesy of Movie Web)