The beauty of the Marjane Satrapi graphic novels and Vincent Paronnaud-directed animated film version of Persepolis warranted a score that was in equal parts dramatic, tender, historical, and tragic, has been fully realized by composer and multi-instrumentalist Olivier Bernet (pronounced Bern-nay). He handles not only the compositions and arrangements, but directing the orchestra and playing many of the instruments himself. These include pianos, synths, taragat, guitars (of all shapes and stripes), bass, ukulele, and many voices. The cues are mostly short, and evoke not only the time period of the late '70s and '80s, but also the sense of frustration, conflict, and confusion of the Iranian revolution that deposed the Shah of Iran and saw the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini from exile and sent president Bani Sadir into exile, imposing on an Islamic Republic the need to do away with as much modern (read: Western) civilization as it could. Satrapi's story is told through simple black-and-white images offering her memories and depictions of childhood and growing up during the 1979 revolution, and of her own migration to Austria and reflections on her own life, her family's, and that of Iran itself. Bernet's score offers these images the kind of symbiotic treatment that not only moves a story along on the big screen, but also guides listeners and viewers toward the subtleties of the narrative. On its own as a piece of music it holds together brilliantly, despite its many changes of texture, direction, and dynamic, as well as shifting chameleon-like through numerous genres. There are dialogue voices included here (Chiara Mastroianni), that notate various aspect of the music as either prelude or postludes, there are two cues, numbers 12 & 14 ("Marche Persane" and "Rosen Aus Dum Südem" -- subtitled "Hormones"), which were composed by Johann Strauss. These Bernet performs and conducts in a very radical manner that will seem blasphemous to classical music aficionados. It is an exotic, outrageously rich journey through music that is inspired in equal parts by Serge Gainsbourg, Bruno Nicolai, Piero Umiliani, and of course Ennio Morricone and Bernard Hermann. Iranian disco music meets old spaghetti western soundtrack, street fair charm, and even the music of war itself. Here is a place where dreams, fears, fantasies, Eros, spirituality, loneliness, and excitement converge in a phantasmagorical sound world for the listener. The score stands on its own as a piece of modern art.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek