Waltz with Bashir Reviews
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!
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.
"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.
Nate's Grade: A
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.
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.
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?