Marjane Satrapi on Persepolis: The RT Interview (With Exclusive Clips and Photos!)
The graphic novelist talks about her long journey into moviedom.Marjane Satrapi Persepolis. Widely circulated and frequently taught, Persepolis, like Maus, provides a small biographical perspective of life during wartime and political instability. Through its presentation of simple and frequently uproarious comic strips, Persepolis candidly reveals Satrapi's journey from youth to womanhood in modern Iran.
The film adaptation of the Persepolis books, co-directed by Satrapi and largely drawn in a glorious black and white, is out in limited release on December 25. We spoke with Satrapi in San Francisco to discuss comics, culture shock, and the Oscars.
Which was more difficult: Approaching your youth for the graphic novel, or approaching it again for the movie?
Marjane Satrapi: It's different difficulties. To start with, you should never forget this is not a documentary about my life. The [process] of storytelling should not be forgotten. For the memoir, that is my life in 400 pages in comics. So already [I'm choosing] moments that are representative of something, an anecdote that will help someone understand a situation.
16 years of life, you cannot put it in a movie if you don't have direction. You'll find yourself with five movies in one. Very often that happens. You have a great beginning, and a great end, and in the middle you have nothing. It's too many things going on.
When we made the movie, it was a very nostalgic moment of my life. The whole structure of the movie [reflects] that. This is the story of this woman who goes to the airport, doesn't have any tickets. [She] sits in this airport and remembers her whole life.
But saying that it [was] difficult...not so much. I'm a very pragmatic person. I'm here to make a nice movie and serve the movie. The movie's not there to serve me. If the idea doesn't fit the movie or it destroys the rhythm, then I throw it out. That is it.
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When did you decided on the framework of Marjane at the airport reminiscing about her life?
MS: That was something I did do in real life. One day, I went to this airport and couldn't go back [to Iran]. I didn't remember all my life... [Laughs.] But I sat there and I cried.
The fact was that [the framework] made it really efficient. You start [the movie] in color. Color is always attributed as fun, na na na na, and black and white is very sad, [but that] has nothing to do with [Persepolis]. The most sad scenes are in color and all the fun things happen in black and white.
Which part of the books did you find hard leaving out of the movie?
MS: The story of the maid was very important to me. At a young age, I was very aware that people didn't have the same values, even in the same house.
Or my friend when he loses an arm and a leg and he says this joke. For me, that was a very important moment. But, you know, life takes it swipes anyways. We have to laugh about it, etcetera, etcetera. But if you start saying that, then you have to say the whole story, you can't just leave it there. Either you have to say a little bit, or you have to say the whole of it. You can't make it half-half. If it were another time in the history of cinema, like if it were 1928, I'd make an eight hour movie. I enjoy seeing eight hour movies.
That's why I like making comics and animation. Because it takes such a long time. I'm not a runner of the 100 meter. I like marathons. The longer it takes, the better I feel.
Was there ever discussion to animate Persepolis entirely in color?
MS: [Co-director] Vincent Paronnaud and I both come from underground comics in which we work in black and white for economical reasons. So that's something we're used to. And it helps keep the coherence of the movie to go from one narration to another.