Whenever a film receives as much good press as Persepolis has, I start to get nervous. Though it may be perfectly enjoyable, it will rarely live up to the hype. Thankfully, this is the rare movie that surpassed my already heightened expectations.

Though I’ve always wanted to read the Persepolis graphic novels, I still haven’t, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. A friend who has read and re-read the books confirmed that the adaptation was faithful: she only counted six missing scenes.

Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical story of her childhood after the fall of the Shah is graceful and engaging. As the new regime becomes ever more oppressive, Satrapi is forced to wear the veil, and her Marxist relatives are jailed or executed. Eventually, fearing for her safety, her parents arrange for her to attend high school in Austria, where she learns that life in the West comes with its own set of problems. Humor mitigates tragedy without trivializing it, as in the clip I’ve included above, which shows Marjane overcoming her depression through what must be the all-time funniest rendition of “Eye of the Tiger.” The black-and-white animation, ripped directly from the pages of the comic books, is beautiful and subtle. Transitions between scenes are thoughtful and artfully done.

Persepolis is not only a gorgeous and meaningful film, but it can also educate the American public about the modern history of Iran–something we all sorely need. But information always makes a stronger impact when relayed on a personal level. In that sense, Persepolis succeeds both politically and artistically.

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