Waltz with Bashir

Marieke Werner, Germany (AC 08-10)

 

Ari Folman’s film begins with one man’s nightmare – 26 murderous dogs that are coming to get him – and ends with a real-life nightmare: the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982. In between, you get an outstanding film:

 

One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari Folman about his recurring nightmare. The two men conclude, that there’s a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the Lebanon War in 1982. Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing about that period of his life and decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He wants to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As he gets deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to return in surreal images.

 

The Tythe Barn was crammed with students on that Thursday evening in March. Nobody wanted to miss the opportunity of free cinema, moreover the screening of such a highly recommended film that received tremendously positive reviews from film critics and won several awards all over the world. You could call “Waltz with Bashir” an animated documentary, but it’s probably better not to get stuck with labels concerning this film.

 

I must say that I was quite curious about the use of animation, which I always connected with rather dull, hardly entertaining cartoons before. But Waltz with Bashir proves, that animation is able to deal with a topic as somber and serious as war.

The film was first shot in a sound studio as a 90-minute video and then transferred to a storyboard. 2300 original illustrations were drawn and digitally converted into a bizarre dream-like world between two and three dimensions. No wonder the film took four years to complete! With surfaces firm and cold and colours that are harder, sharper, brighter than before it looks like one long hallucination and is therefore perfect for the trauma of Folman’s recovered memories. Nevertheless, there are moments when animation can’t help but down play the horrors of the war. At one point, you see a family getting shot. If that was news footage, most of us would probably turn our eyes away. On the other hand, too much reality can stop audiences facing reality. The only part of the film which isn’t animated is a short segment at the end of the film that shows the documented results of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in real life pictures.

 

Many students stayed behind to discuss the film afterwards. Different opinions and heated debates were also raised in the outside world after the film’s release in December 2008. Like all Israeli films, it has been banned in most Arab countries, with the harshest critics in Lebanon as it portrays a vague and violent time in Lebanon’s history. In January 2009 the film was privately screened in Beirut. Folman saw this as a source of great pride:

 

                “I was overwhelmed and excited. I wish I could have been there. I wish

                 one day I’ll be able to present the film myself in Beirut. For me, it will be

                 the happiest day of my life.”

 

A friend of mine also told me after the film: “I really loved that film, as far as you can love such a horrific film. It’s good that it shows the Israeli point of view because when we studied it in school, we studied more from the Arab position, because they were the victims.”

 

Indeed, the film turns away from the more common perspective, the perspective from the victim’s point of view and shows the rather psychological than physical impact that the war had on the Israeli soldiers: guilt, repression, amnesia, traumas and bad dreams are what they took home with them. However, it doesn’t attempt to defend or justify the soldier’s actions at all. It finally touches a topic, that has still been – 27 years after the war – a ‘tabu-topic’ in Israel.

 

“Waltz with Bashir” is a powerful, very honest and thoughtful film, that moved me immensely. An absolute ‘must-see’ for everyone!

 

– United World College Student Magazine –

 

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