Waltz with Bashir

Directed by Ari Folman

Director Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir is a bold reinvention of the documentary. Completely animated, the film is an exploration of war, memory and guilt. It’s also a masterclass in how a filmmaker can help a nation deal with the shame of war atrocities.

The atrocity at the heart of Waltz for Bashir for much of the running time is shrouded in mystery. The film opens with a friend of Ari Folman recounting to him a recurring nightmare involving 26 dogs. He remembers the exact number of dogs because as a soldier he had killed 26 dogs outside a village to stop them alerting the enemy to the army’s presence. This in turn causes Ari Goldman to remember his own experience as a young conscript. He was part of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and has his own recurring dream in which he is emerging from the water during the massacre of Palestinians by Christian Phalangists at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Folman has large gaps in his memory and doesn’t trust his dreams so he tracks down several friends who all recount their own war tales, helping Folman to complete the picture of the past and come to grips with his own part in the historic tragedy. What unfolds is a series of stories that all point towards the severe psychological impact that war has on those that come into its path.

The animation is stunning. The film was constructed from dozens of interviews and then these were recreated in a studio. After a full length film was shot and edited, this became the basis for the resulting animated film. The style of Waltz for Bashir‘s animation is hyper-real: Think more A Scanner Darkly than Persepolis. The effect of the animation is compelling – The stories, dreams and hallucinations of these ex-soldiers are fully realised and you are completely drawn into the stories but at the same time the fact that these stories are animated do allow you to be critically distanced from the images. The film acknowledges that we cannot know the ultimate truth of what happened in the 1982 Lebanon War but we can learn lessons from it as the event is remembered through the people who survived.

There are lessons to be learnt from this film for any confessional cinema. Remember Rabbit Proof Fence? Certainly an important event film in that it dealt with the Stolen Generation during a time when the government was trying to downplay its significance. But is it really possible to honestly present the Stolen Generation through a standard dramatic historical epic?

WATCH THIS WITH:

Munich, Steven Spielberg, 2005.

To complete the ‘Jewish guilt” double-feature. An inversion of the Jewish persecution film.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Waltz with Bashir

  1. For me, Munich didn’t work very well, though I acknowledge the thematic link with Waltz With Bashir, a superior film in every respect.

    Like Linklater’s Waking Life (and I’m sure the stylistic similarities are no coincidence), the use of animation is an excellent device for blurring the lines between reality, memory, dreams and fantasy.

  2. Miguel

    “A superior film in every respect” ?

    Have you seen it? I thought it hadn’t come out…

    Munich is quite a good film, I thought, and both are hardly comparable… at least as I imagine “Waltz With Bashir” to be.

    Waking Life wasn’t “animated” but filmed and rotoscoped. The end result is quite good but “Waking Life” is, in my opinion, simply not up to par… at least as plots go. I found “A Scanner Darkly” to be a lot more relatable and entertaining, as well as one of the only films with Keanu Reaves which you can actually tolerate… maybe because the “animation” lends him a helping hand by blurring out his lack of expression ahahah

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