Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
I, like many people my age these days, did not read enough when I was little. As a result, though my reading comprehension is good, my reading speed is below college-level standards. That’s why I enjoy comic books and graphic novels; because the descriptive words of a traditional book are replaced with pictures, and though comics take some of the imagination away from traditional books, what they gain instead is the opportunity for an artist to step in and show the true image the writer wants to convey. Some of these comic books, like Persepolis, are later remade into movies. With this adaptation come both benefits and drawbacks, and this essay examines the benefits and drawbacks of the Persepolis movie versus the Persepolis books. Taking both into consideration, it is difficult to come up with a preferable way to experience the Persepolis story, but because the movie takes away several important details that the book keeps, I must side with the book.
First I want to go over the benefits that the movie brings to the table. Being a movie, everything is set in motion. The viewer simply relaxes and watches the events unfold in front of his or her eyes, and the shorter format as opposed to a book makes viewing the story in just one sitting a possibility. Perhaps the biggest addition to the movie version is audio. All the characters have voices, the sounds have meaning, and one does not have to imagine the voices and sounds as they happen while reading the book. Another addition with audio comes the benefit of music. Music can help set the mood, and can create a much more robust experience if done correctly.
But with the movie format also comes one major drawback: the exemption of several different parts of the book, some of which can be very important. For instance, if the chapter “The Horse” (Marjane Satrapi p. 198) had been fully included in the movie, Satrapi’s life would seem much less lonely, because in that chapter her mother comes to visit her in Austria. In the second to last chapter of the book, “The Satellite,” (Satrapi p. 320) things in Iran start to look up a little more when satellite television is brought to the nation, though it is quickly banned. Sadly, this and many other chapters are exempt from the movie title, and because of that, the movie portrays Marjane Satrapi as having been much lonelier in Austria, and too much of her childhood from the book is lost in making the movie.
Also with the movie come English actors. The movie’s vocals were originally recorded in French with English dubbing made for the United States. Both languages are available on the disc, but those that don’t want to follow along by reading the subtitles will have to settle with an acting job that doesn’t quite set right. Finally, with any movie comes the lack of imagination that books require the reader to use. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a drawback; some prefer to have the voices and sounds given to them through the movie, while others prefer to make up the audio in their head as they read.
There are also benefits and drawbacks to having made the story into a book. Because it is a book, it’s portable and can be taken and read anywhere. Books also benefit from not being limited to certain unwritten laws that the movie industry tend to put into place, like limiting length to around two hours, or allowing for much more artistic opportunity rather than making something that will rake in lots of cash and profit for the people involved in its making. Books, because they are not limited by length, can be as large as the writer’s imagination or as small as reader’s likely amount of time to read them.
Which brings me to one of the drawbacks of the book format. Because the average person either has work, school, or both, they don’t have much time to read a whole book, comic or otherwise. There can even be a long time between buying the book and actually starting to read it, which may lead to the consumer forgetting about it and not reading it at all. Because I read it for academic purposes, I was able to find time to read it in between my schedule, but not everyone is so fortunate.
Finally, there are the benefits and drawbacks of having written the book in the graphic novel format. There are some scenes in the book that would not have been possible without the book having been in the graphic format that it is; in “The Sheep,” (Satrapi p. 62) at the very end when Satrapi reject’s God’s attempts to comfort her, she is seen lying on her back, with nothing but space around her, and no words can describe emptiness the way this picture does. In “The Key,” (Satrapi p. 94) the children of Satrapi’s school are seen beating themselves. They have blank, almost distressed looks on their faces, and because of the veils it becomes impossible to tell Satrapi from the rest, if she is even in this picture. It depicts the mundane shallowness that the veil brings to the children, because everyone looks alike. Those are just a few of the many panels like these.
Another benefit is that because most of the descriptive words are taken away and replaced with pictures instead, the book is made easier to read and can be read much faster than a traditional book of similar length. One of the tradeoffs to this is that the reader doesn’t use as much imagination when reading, and though this doesn’t apply to Persepolis, if the art is bad it makes the book less fun to read.
Taking everything into consideration, it is difficult to come up with an answer to the question, “Which is better, the book or the movie?” but because the movie makes so many exemptions in the story, I must side with the book. Though because they are both excellent experiences, it really comes down to the consumers, how much time they have, and how they prefer to view their stories. I would advise them to read the book, but of course it’s all up to them.