I thought that watching a movie based on a book would never bring new sensations towards the work. Especially in this case, a full-featured cartoon based on a graphic memoir: one two-dimensional work after another. What would be different except one being dynamic and the other one static?
I’ve bought and read the books (a box set of Persepolis 1 & Persepolis 2) and deeply enjoyed their stories, wits, complexities and graphics. And there are values beyond the mere words and pictures that are charmingly combined in the books. Therefore it’s clear that I don’t want any animation version ruining my perception towards the whole stories, which are being told in an amazing way through the ‘graphic novel’ media.
But I trust Satrapi, her involvement in the project, and – of course – her insistence in achieving her artistic standards. So I was naturally very curious about the movie.
The long-awaited time came during the Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFFEST) 2007, where Persepolis was screened three times (among which, one was for the opening/ for invitation only). It didn’t take long until I asked my sister to immediately buy tickets for us (and it was a wise move, knowing the fact that tickets for Persepolis were sold out rather quickly). Right. On to the movie.
A prologue featured the little Satrapi in a short occurrence. Perhaps to show what kind of girl she is even at a very young age: bold, yet witty. Then came the title and credits. It’s all black and white, and two-dimensional, indeed, but it visually resembled a shadow-puppet play. The falling leaves, the wind and the wave, the dynamic shots from one object to another, the whole aura that seemed like coming from a faraway land. From here, my hope raised. I knew I would enjoy the ride!
The movie continued with a scene of the adult Satrapi, sitting in an airport, waiting for her flight to Iran, in color. She started telling her stories, narrating the whole flashback scene (yes, in B/W) to the audience.
The next I could remember were flashes of images, similar to but not quite the same with the printed ones. The animated version is more fluid, of course, and the accompanying sound effects could enhance the scenes. Sadness (death of a neighbor, jailed uncle), fright (fleeing from the patrols who found out about a party), even sweetness (fallen jasmine flowers from grandma’s bosom), cuteness (little Satrapi leading her gang) and other senses are presented so touchingly.
For those who haven’t read the book, perhaps the movie is too dense. There are indeed so many things to tell, and who knows how much one can register in one viewing.
As for me and other audience who have read the book, this movie might just be a confirmation of what we’ve read. But what I like most about it is that it’s just not a ‘moving’ version of Satrapi’s drawings – and that it didn’t bore us by telling the same stories with the same sequence. Some scenes were unexpected, and some of them were even funny! Truly an animation that plays with your emotions; the kind you can’t just watch once and forget. It is, for me, like a second treat to appreciating Persepolis. My highest compliments go to this work. I intend to acquire and treasure the DVD, for it is not a mere bunch of drawings arranged into celluloid that makes an animation: it presents a process of maturity, thoughts and values.
Image source: http://www.sonypictures.com/classics/persepolis/