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Differences Between the Graphic Novel and Film "Persepolis"

I love writing and I have a BA in sociology and English and comparative literary studies from Occidental College.

"Persepolis," the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi.

"Persepolis," the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi.

Have You Read "Persepolis"?

Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical masterpiece, Persepolis, uses historic events and personal experiences to show us the effects of the Iranian Revolution and war. The graphic narrative uses cartoon characters in black and white to allow the reader to more deeply sympathize and connect with the piece. When Satrapi breaks from the general style of the comic, the image is meant to be taken more seriously—looked at for a longer period of time to make out the details.

She slows down the narrative on page 102, where she describes the people who have died in the war: “The key to paradise was for poor people. Thousands of young kids, promised a better life, exploded on the minefields with their keys around their necks” (102). She juxtaposes this statement with the image of many silhouettes—soldiers getting blown up from the mines—with keys dangling from their necks.

The key in the first panel represents the power of belief and that these men have died honorably in their eyes—thinking they are off to paradise. This shocking image is followed by an image of a party. The dancers in the image seem to mimic the bodies in the first panel (the soldiers). The dancers are enjoying the party because they need a distraction from the paranoid state the country is in. The youth in the bottom panel alludes to the young soldiers in the war at the time. Satrapi is juxtaposing these images in order to illustrate the power of hope in such desperate times; she speeds up the narrative to do so, demanding attention from the reader.

When Marji skips school in the chapter entitled “The Cigarette,” her mother gets very upset and Marji takes refuge in the basement. Her dark descent down the stairs is juxtaposed with images of the history of this war (115). Satrapi is attempting to show the reader that the country is not progressing or empowering itself. She states, “So we plunged deeper into the war” (115). The upsetting images that are also on this page make the reader feel the descent of the country’s humanity.

When Marji walks passed the neighbor’s destroyed building (142), the image is drawn with massive detail—not on the characters, but on the building. Because it is drawn with detail which breaks the general artistic style of the novel, the image makes the reader take their time examining the image. It slows down time and creates a feeling of sadness.

Overall, the novel Persepolis makes the reader see and relate to the events in Iran and the difficult times that people went through. We, as readers, are able to understand the difficulties of this time through the graphic narrative because it shows us images that are historical, yet not very detailed (in general). Satrapi’s use of the medium allows the reader to connect with her story and gain education on the events which are important to understanding history.

The film version of Persepolis stays true to the overall tone and style of the graphic novel, yet, its intention is slightly different. While the book attempts to tell the dramatic story of Marji Satrapi, the film intends to more directly educate the viewer about Iranian history—leaving out many scenes of Marji in Austria. In the film, the narrator (Marji) quickly summarizes the homes she moved through in Europe. The film does not include the scene in which Marji's mother comes to visit her while she is living with eight gay people. This scene was very crucial to Marji's state of mind in the graphic novel, yet in the film, it is not even mentioned. Could this be that the film's main purpose was not to tell the story of this girl's life—from childhood to adolescence to womanhood? Is this why the film doesn't include most of the scenes in which Marji ignores news on Iran (in the novel)? It may seem this way, but when we analyze the scenes which the film added, we can see a contradiction to these arguments.

In the book, the character Momo is infatuated with death. In the film, there is a scene where Marji is at a heavy metal rock concert with Momo and begins to dance along with the crowd. This scene shows that Marji is detaching herself from the Iranian culture and this point is furthered by the fact that she claims she is from France in the bar. The film includes this point to describe what it meant to be Iranian in Europe at the time—not to describe the emotional angst that Marjane experienced.

After Marji rejects her Iranian origin (in the film), she leaves the bar. We are shown her shadow walking down the street, followed by another. Her grandmother's shadow reminds her that she must stay true to herself. This image allows the viewer to connect with Marji and understand her more. This is not a historical event, yet it is something that pushes Marji to return to Iran in the film. Her time in Europe is limited in the film; the scene where her boyfriend cheats on her seems out-of-nowhere. In the book, it makes much more sense and is not glazed over like much of her time in Austria. The art of the film stays true to the novel; the characters are drawn as they are in the book and the majority of the film is in black and white. The beginning and end of the movie are enhanced with color to represent the present time; the black and white scenes are meant to illustrate the feeling of a memory or history. When we look back to our past, we may see situations in black and white—without the color of present emotions.

Overall, the film does an excellent job at depicting the historical facts of the revolution while giving the reader much more graphic imagery. The novel, however, is much more in tune with Marjane's emotions during such a time and creates a bond with the reader that the movie could never accomplish.

Persepolis Trailer 2: UK

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Dedriu on December 04, 2017:

This was a school project

nice on May 26, 2017:


Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on June 01, 2012:

Thank you, Katrina! I hope you enjoy them!

kartika damon from Fairfield, Iowa on June 01, 2012:

This is a fascinating article - now I want to read the book and see the film. The subject of women in the Middle East is interesting to me, and I've read quite a few memoirs by women from the region. I gave you a thumbs up!

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on December 12, 2011:

Thank you, Derdriu. I have to go back and read "A River Runs Through it" again. I tend to prefer books to movies also, but sometimes the movies surprise me. Thank you so much for reading, sharing your thoughts and also inspiring me to read something I haven't looked at in a while. Mahalo nui loa. -Brittany

Derdriu on December 12, 2011:

Brittany, What an informative, insightful, interesting analysis of the similarities and differences between the graphic novel and the movie formats! In general, I tend to prefer a book to its movie version. But more and more, I'm realizing that oftentimes differences need not be taken literally. Each medium has a different way of conveying the same message. It's sort of like the passage in "A River Runs Through It" when Norman Maclean's father says that sometimes the truest way of getting across what happens is to take Paul's life and tell it with fictional fluorishes instead of with devotion to the facts. That is indeed what Norman did in the story too regarding how Paul's life actually went.

Thank you for sharing, etc.,


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