Waltz with Bashir Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 22, 2008
This animated movie tells the story of a film-maker visiting former comrades from the time of Isreali-Palestinian war. For some reasons, Ari does not remember details of a certain battle and hopes for his old friends to fill in the gaps. In the shape of a quasi-documentary he interviews the former soldiers and slowly pieces the puzzle of a special massacre together, told in flashback sequences. The animation is very unusual but quite brilliantly solved, simplistic yet effective and impressive. In many regards this film does not have to hide behind the classic war films to describe the terrors. To add real footage of the victims of the massacre in the last seconds was not really necessary, though.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2011
Waltz With Bashir is an animated documentary (possibly made out of guilt) that artfully accounts the filmmaker's forgotten, but haunting memory of the 1982 Lebanon War, Sabra and Shatila Massacre. Ugly history presented with irresistible creativity and charm. A strong and powerful work that explores the psychological trauma by warfare. The God-awful screams at the end are haunting.
Super Reviewer
½ May 7, 2009
Lavish and innovative animation only strengthen what is a bold and hard hitting document of the atrocities of war and the toll conflict takes on the mindset of those thrust into the middle of it. A gorgeous and powerful work of art.
Super Reviewer
½ March 31, 2011
The Israel & Palestine conflict never makes an easy topic for discussion. It tends to split people, and split quite passionately. This however, doesn't address the politics of the conflict but focuses more on the atrocity and brutality of war.
On realising he has no memory of serving in the Israeli Army during the First Lebanon War in 1982, Ari Folman tracks down his old buddies to hear their stories of the conflict, and try to solve the mystery of his own psychological blindspot.
This is a documentary that's one of the most original of it's kind, thanks in large to it's strikingly powerful artwork. It consists of a serious of investigative interviews with director and war veteran Folman and his comrades who served with him during the conflict and like the stories they relate, the interviews are also included in the animation. Had the interviewing been done without employing the use of animation, this may not have held our interest as much as it does, and helps bind the film into a coherent and visually stunning experience. Having served as an Israeli soldier, Folman wisely doesn't justify his actions. If anything he abhors them. As he pieces the stories together, the revelation of his deep rooted memories are harrowing and no wonder he developed temporary amnesia. He psychologically blocked his memories due to the atrocities and sheer brutality of the massacre - that he witnessed - of Palestinian men, women and children. Despite, the heavy subject matter and the backdrop of war and barbarism, there are still scenes of such power and surreal beauty.
A gruesome, visually stunning film, that captures an eerie feel throughout and despite being shocking, it carries a very important message. Unlike anything you'll have seen before. Superb!
Super Reviewer
November 9, 2010
Before I begin, I must note that this film and, to some degree, this review are not for those who don't know the history of the Lebanon/Israel War of the early '80s. The film expects its audience to know a lot more than most Americans are aware of.
I'm a little confused about this film. Sure: the very idea of an animated documentary is rather confusing, but the inventiveness of the animation - not the quality, which seems jilting, like it was made with those flip books I made in grade school - soon dispelled my confusion at this aspect of the film. Rather, I'm confused about the film's overall point especially in this socio-political climate. The film's central emotion seems to be guilt. The documentarian/main character searches for testimonials to fill in his missing memory about the massacres of Sabra and Shantila, suspecting his involvement. In a key scene, for me, his friend and psychoanalyst claims that he is motivated to conduct this search because his parents were in the concentration camps. And in the course of his investigation, we get war stories that never glorify armed combat - the old "war is hell" thesis. But the film's big reveal is well-known to historians: the Christian Kataeb Party was directly responsible, while the Israelis basically watched the door.
So here is my confusion: yes, Folman and Israel have some culpability, especially because some Palestinian reports suggest Israelis troops had a more direct role in the massacre than the film suggests, and the film implies this; we even get scenes that lampoon high-ranking Israeli military personnel, and the film states that the Israeli command chain knew about and ignored the massacres in progress. But if the climax of the film reveals the real responsibility rests with the Lebanese, then isn't the film's central point to excuse Israel?
I don't demand that Waltz with Bashir [sic] reduce complex political realities to overly simplistic, Hollywood cliches, but in light of the blight of the Palestinian people and the horrors that they've had to endure before, during, and after the Lebanese War of the '80s, I would think that the balance would be tipped more toward the Israeli responsibility and less toward the Bachir's influence. The blithe mentions of car bombs and concentration camps do little to exonerate Israeli guilt and more to excuse it.
Super Reviewer
½ April 20, 2010
I want to say that this is the finest line between fiction and reality that there is. Documentaries are never this beautiful and poetic in nature, Ari Folman has created a complete masterpiece. The animation seems to work with no problem and definitely makes the ending even more effective. The dream sequence in the water is so powerful. I really liked the opening sequence with the 26 dogs, just such a unique way of telling a story. You can either see it as a narrative or a non-narrative documentary, both would be correct. The content is extremely moving on top of all the visuals and storytelling, which really gives it the boost into a far more important part of film history. I would love to see more documentaries go this route.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2009
The title "Waltz With Bashir" refers to a specific scene in the movie, where a soldier dances in the middle of the street to dodge gunfire, as he fires his machine gun at hidden snipers. Bashir is Bachir Gemayel, the commander of the Lebanese forces who was assassinated just 3 weeks after being elected president. It was his assassination that led to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, where the Phalangist party to which Bashir belonged, went into Beirut's Palestinian refugee camps and murdered possibly thousands of people. The Israeli Defense Force, who had been aiding the Lebanese Forces, stood by and let the massacre happen, supposedly with full knowledge of it's taking place. The film "Waltz With Bashir" takes a look at these events through the eyes of a former Israeli soldier, who, now 30 years later, can't seem to recall the events of what took place. He can't seem to recall any of the details of his service in fact, and spends the movie attempting to piece together memories from the recollections of his comrade soldiers. What Persepolis did to show us Iran's cultural revolution from the 70s/80s, Waltz With Bashir does to show us Lebanon in the early 80s, with it's comic book style realistic style that allows you to sometimes forget you're watching a cartoon. What isn't so easy to forget is how closely Waltz With Bashir mirrors our own involvement with countries such as Iraq and Afganistan. Despite this though, there's not much universal appeal to this film, it's Israeli film that appeals primarily to Israelis. I certainly wouldn't call it a bad film, just not one meant for American audiences.
Super Reviewer
½ December 14, 2008
An animated documentary account of the Israeli intervention of '82 into the Lebanese Civil War in support of the President, Bashir Gemayel. It's both visually and acoustically beautiful with nice 3D effects combined with Max Richter's haunting tracks. Uniquely, by way of its animated format, it manages to combine the first person combat scenes of the war movie genre together with the style of TV documentaries like "Death of Yugoslavia" where through interviews with the witnesses and protagonists it provides a lasting record of the tragic events that unfold. It's depressing, it's meant to be, but it's worth a viewing.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2008
"Do you ever have flashbacks from Lebanon?"
"No. No, not really."

An Israeli film director interviews fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to reconstruct his own memories of his term of service in that conflict.

Ari Folman's animated documentary about the role he played in an Israeli massacre of Palestinians during the Lebanese war of the early 1980s. Folman has no recollection of the event, so he embarks on a journey to find other people who he knows were there and who might be able to help him reconstruct his memories. What unfolds is yet one more horrible chapter in the eternal saga of mankind's potential for brutality and hatred.

"Waltz with Bashir" is a deeply depressing film; Folman doesn't end the movie with any lessons learned, and there's no phony message of hope to serve as a ray of light amid the suffocating gloom. The last few minutes of the film are composed of actual footage of the aftermath of the massacre, and the final image of the film is the corpse of a little boy poking out from a pile of rubble. The entire Lebanese war as depicted by Folman was a study in senseless carnage, as indeed are most wars.

One might think that animating the film would rob it of some of its visual power, but that's not the case. Folman is able to depict events visually that he wouldn't have been able to do otherwise if he'd had to rely on existing footage, and the result is that the film feels more brutal and disturbing than a more traditional documentary on the same subject probably would.
Super Reviewer
½ October 9, 2009
A striking dramatic achievement. An original and powerful animation film detailing the horrors of war and how good soldiers can be stripped of their humanity and adopt Nazi practices when it comes to "following orders", and not realizing that they are contributing to a massacre. While it does lag at times, and it feels longer than 90 minutes, I gave this movie a generous rating because a.) It's a captivating look at a little touched-on subject, and b.) The ending hit me like a train. You won't leave this movie unaffected.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
½ September 17, 2009
A mix between animation, documentary, and war drama, this Israeli film is something uniquely different and remarkable. Filmmaker Ari Folman interviews fellow veteran servicemen from Israel?s 1982 invasion of Lebanon in hopes of jogging his memory. He has blocked out the painful memories of war but his mind is reawakened as he reexamines the truth about the conflict and eventual massacre of Lebanese Arabs. Folman utilizes a rotoscope style of animation, which gives it a heightened reality and an intoxicating painterly beauty. He also takes advantage of the fact that atrocities can be easier to stomach when presented through the barrier of tasteful animation. However, it will be hard to keep from being affected (a scene of dying horses got to me bad). The realms of reality, fantasy, nightmare, and memory can crash together in fascinating ways, and eventually the movie transforms outright into a full-fledged documentary that melts away any last obstacle of empathy, ending with real disturbing footage of the massacre?s aftermath. Waltz with Bashir does not come with an agenda in tow, which allows the movie to explore the ambiguities of being young, nationalistic, confused, and armed in a hostile land. Folman is trying to peel away at the unbiased truth of the matter and cleanse his curiosity and, perhaps, his conscience. His filmic journey to that elusive and painful truth is a movie that crosses cultures and redefines what a documentary can be.

Nate's Grade: A
Super Reviewer
½ January 11, 2009
Direct from Israel, a powerful political film that's artfully animated. My only gripe is that it's painfully slow in pacing, as if director Ari Folman was trying to stretch sixty minutes of material into an hour and a half.
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2009
a slow burn to a shattering climax as an ex-soldier fights to recover his memories of the lebanon war 20 years earlier. the stunning animation alone would make it well worth watching. it's not about who won or lost but about how soldiers deal with the horrors they witness and commit
Super Reviewer
April 16, 2009
Beautifully crafted animation used to create a fresh perspective on the Israeli/Palestine conflict. A visual triumph, its slow methodical approach builds to a brutal ending.
Super Reviewer
½ March 17, 2009
A filmmaker finds he has forgotten details of his Israeli military service, and seeks to reconstruct his memory by interviewing other former soldiers. This unique half-fiction, half-documentary feature is a powerful meditation on the uses and abuses of memory, the absurdity of war from the foot soldier's vantage point, and a guilty national conscience.
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2009
an astounding film that if not for a few missteps towards the end could have been listed among the best war films of all time. compelling at every turn, this film grabbed me with its beautiful animation and near perfect dialogue. unfortunately the beauty and power of the story was tainted by an imprudent porn scene, as well as an all too abrupt ending that left me far too curious of a few untied loose ends. all in all however, this film is majestic, with perfect musical elements, great characters, and a tremendous flow to an amazing story.
Super Reviewer
March 4, 2009
Great film and I usually don't go for animation geared more for mature audiences. I really learned a lot about the entire Palestinian/Israeli conflict. What makes it most interesting is the fact that some it was taken from documentary interviews of people who were really there and experienced the conflict first hand. I loved the opening and the ending was powerful. The animation style didn't take anything away from the story and all of the characters are interesting. Again, not for everyone (there is some really disturbing stuff here, but a disturbing reality which should be seen by more people), but for those who can stand the violence, you will find a very powerful and original film.
Super Reviewer
January 25, 2009
Boaz Rein-Buskila: Do you ever have flashbacks from Lebanon?
Ari Folman: No. No, not really.

An animated Israeli film about a former soldier looking to regain his memory about events that transpired during a massacre that occurred back in 1982, when Israeli forces invaded Lebanon.

This film may be animated, but it is essentially a documentary. The writer/director is also the star, and we follow him as he travels all over to discuss the events with other former soldiers.

The animation serves as a way to portray all of the events that transpired, as well as dreams, nightmares, hallucinations, and flashbacks. It is truly the best format for this film, which is why it was made this way.

The animation has a distinct look, separating it from other modern animated films. It is also necessary to point out that animation does not equal fun for the whole family, as this film is a hard R detailing gruesome war related material.

There is a lot of good stuff here, when looked at from an episodic perspective, a number of standout sequences described by the various people encountered, including the one where the title of the film comes from, certainly make this a good all around film, even with the few scenes that may throw some out of the loop.

The soundtrack is certainly a major element to this film as well, bringing a wonderful rhythm to a very varied film, and clicking with the way the film unfolds as the main character works to unlocking his memories.

Good and interesting film.

Ari Folman: It is always the same dream. Always 26 dogs coming for me.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2009
[size=3]"Waltz with Bashir" is visually interesting, using creative animation techniques. Its subject is also important (the massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut in the early 1980s). But the film is structured in such a way that the drama is muted, making the film ultimately quite plodding and dull. I wanted to like it very much, but I was mostly bored until the final 15 minutes, which are powerful and disturbing.

The central character is a middle-aged Israeli man who is struggling to recover memories of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which he participated in as an Israeli soldier. He still has several friends who were with him in Lebanon, and he decides to ask them about their memories. Most of the film is a re-enactment of these conversations. That is the principal problem. Audiences want to be put into the action; they don't want to listen to people talk about action.

Frequently the visuals shift to Lebanon but not the dialogue. For example, if a man is discussing what he remembers from the invasion, the visuals shift such that we're watching him as a young man during the events. But the audio is still his narration going on in the present day. So we watch him in Lebanon, but we don't hear him say anything as a young man. We listen to him as a middle-aged man sitting in a cafe recounting things. This distances the viewer from the action. I think "Waltz with Bashir" would have been far more thrilling if the viewer was more able to disappear into the memories, to experience the invasion as if they were there.

I generally feel that voice-over narration is an over-used technique that is almost never effective. The director of this film, [b]Ari Folman[/b], absolutely loves the technique, which is unfortunate. The dialogue is particularly non-dramatic when the man visits psychologists who explain their theories of suppressed memories. Shouldn't we make it a general rule that psychologists never appear in film? Nothing kills drama like a psychologist.


Bashir is a Lebanese politician (Bashir Gemayel) who was assassinated during the Israeli invasion, shortly after he was elected president of the country. He was a member of the Christian group called the Phalangists, who were generally allied with Israel against the majority-Muslim population in Lebanon. His murder infuriated both the Phalangists and Israel and helped provoke the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Shabra and Shatila camps in Beirut. This massacre is the film's center of gravity.

The Israeli soldiers featured in "Waltz" mostly have suppressed their memories of the massacre. They remember being in Beirut at the time, but that's all. There is a dramatic reckoning with the memories at the tail end of the film, but I won't reveal the details. This segment of the film is very engaging. But unfortunately, 80% of the film is rather dull. Folman shows his dramatic talent at the end. I wish he had brought this talent to bear in the middle of the film as well.

The political discussion is almost non-existent. The paragraph above, explaining Bashir's connection to Israel is not something one could get from "Waltz." I wrote that based on my general knowledge. An uninformed viewer would probably not understand who was being massacred and who was doing the massacring just by seeing "Waltz."

I'm certainly not arguing that Folman should have had political talking heads to join his psychological talking heads. But it seems to me that a documentarian has to find ways to explain the political fault lines of a massacre that is the emotional and dramatic center of gravity of his film. An Israeli audience probably does not need this explanation; but an American audience does, particularly a non-Jewish one. Most Americans probably couldn't find Lebanon on a map and perhaps cannot even use the word 'Palestinian' intelligently in a sentence. So I don't imagine there's going to be much of a market for "Waltz" in this country.

Finally, I just want to commend Folman for standing up to publicly address Israel's collusion in the Lebanese massacre. This must have taken a tremendous amount of courage on his part, and I'm sure he's gotten his share of death threats from Israeli right wingers. It heartens me that the Israeli filmmaking community is capable of challenging the status quo and exploring tough subject matter such as this. Three cheers for Israel for allowing this film to be shown around the world. That is cause for celebration. Even if the film isn't great, it's still an important moral event.
Super Reviewer
December 19, 2008
#24: Waltz With Bashir
Though not as affecting as Persepolis, this ?animated documentary? is still a mesmerising and provocative take on middle eastern violence. Dreamlike visuals and a harrowing dissection of the 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps create film that is part history and part hallucination. Unique.

Best bit: The dream sequence in which a soldier is rescued by a giant mermaid. We said it was a documentary, right?
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