In Waltz with Bashir
, animation marries into the documentary genre in this great antiwar film. What a surrealistic trip.
Not failing to mention, it has a great score and soundtrack.
Waltz with Bashir (2008)
Director: Ari Folman
Critics' rating: 5 out of 5 stars
From Time Out New York
It starts with a whole pack of rabid mutts, all bright yellow eyes and bared teeth, barking under a window. Boaz Rein-Buskila has been having this same dream for years, revolving around an incident that happened in Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon War. “Don’t these things haunt you?” the former Israeli soldier asks his friend, filmmaker Ari Folman. “You were there too.” The director replies: “That’s not stored in my system.”
This sequence opens Waltz with Bashir, Folman’s attempt to unearth what’s buried in his skull, and the fact that Folman recounts his journey by using animation makes everything more surreal. As he gathers testimonies from the various middle-aged men who served with him in the Israeli military at that time, the horrors become vivid: innocents getting incinerated when bombs miss their targets, snipers taking out platoons one man at a time, whole villages being razed to the ground. All of these atrocities are rendered in the style of an old, slightly out-of-sync Johnny Quest episode.
What seems like a cheap gimmick is actually a stroke of genius: Memory is always an unreliable witness, which is why this plunge down the PTSD rabbit hole needed to be animated. It’s the only medium that can do Folman’s excavations justice, exposing both his repressed recollections and the collective denial of a nation. The coup of the film is that by the time clarity hits"tellingly, via actual, real-life images"the shame has become everyone’s: Israel’s, Folman’s, yours, mine. Even before that revelation, however, Waltz with Bashir has already left an imprint. It is, in a word, unforgettable.
Author: David Fear
Time Out New York Issue 690/691: December 18 - 31, 2008
It is the first and only film I have ever seen at a film festival. Great to see the Q and A between the audience and the director after the film screening.