Waltz with Bashir

"Essential"

Waltz with Bashir Review


Despite its blaring phantasmagoria and hallucinatory nostalgia, the central image of Ari Folman's utterly spellbinding Waltz with Bashir is one of brilliant, serene calm. Bathed in street-lamp-yellow glow, three rail-thin soldiers emerge from a starless-black ocean, stark naked, and begin walking onto the shores of West Beirut. Accompanied only by the sustained synths and strings of Max Richter's ominous score, the image reemerges throughout the film, eventually leading to the film's shattering finale.

At the beginning of Folman's film -- a stylish hybrid of documentary, animation, and war movie -- this image of himself and his two comrades, youthful and morose, is the only thing he can conjure up about his times as an Israeli soldier in 1982. He cannot remember what he did or, for that matter, what he did not do while serving in Lebanon against the Palestinians in the days leading up to the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Early on, Boaz, Folman's good friend and fellow soldier, recalls a recurring nightmare he has about a battalion of zombie dogs running through the streets of a steel-blue Tel Aviv in search of his jugular. He knows the dream's origins: As a soldier, he shot dogs in the small towns to ensure that they wouldn't bark and give the Palestinians time to escape.

The rest of Waltz with Bashir plunges through Folman's own past to find the origins of his dream. He interviews a dozen or so of his fellow combatants, along with a psychologist friend and Ron Ben-Yishai, a television reporter who was on the ground during the attacks that lead to Sabra and Shatila. The massacre, revealed in the films final quarter, served as retribution for the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the leader of the Christian Phalangists and prospective president of Lebanon. So muddled is the conflict that the death toll has never been confirmed.

Encased in a mixture of classic, Flash, and 3D animation, Waltz with Bashir is a film about the disavowing of violence in even the most feral of conflicts. Like the Israeli army, Folman never directly took part in the massacre but he allowed it to happen, even lighting up the sky with flares to make sure the Phalangists weren't murdering their own. His psychologists friend tells him he unwillingly took on the role of the Nazis, a fact that reaches back to Folman's parents who were held in Auschwitz. The animation, which was supervised by chief animator Yoni Goodman and art director David Polonsky, liquefies Folman's history of violence into a menagerie of surreal set pieces and dystopic paranoia. One soldier distances himself from an attack on his ship by imagining lying between the legs of gigantic sea enchantress. Another focuses on his love for Patchouli to forget his battalion's encounter with an RPG-wielding child.

But it is in the final moments, when the screen switches from Folman's animated visage to televised documentation of the massacre aftermath, that the film's complete weight moves to rest completely on the viewer. Like Folman's disbelief of his own actions, the animation process allows the audience to exist in stasis, unprepared to witness the all-too-real atrocities that came out of 1980s Israel, which might as well be current-day Israel. Even as a young Folman returns home on leave, to a girlfriend who left him and a youth already drunk on sex and punk rock, reality has become unrecognizable and he immediately yearns for the buried pain of the war. Fitted with Israeli rock & roll and PiL's "This is Not A Love Song," Waltz is a frothing pop nightmare, one hypnotized both by wartime necrosis and the blunt trauma of repressed violence.

Can you make me a balloon Uzi?



Waltz with Bashir

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 12th June 2008

Box Office USA: $2.1M

Box Office Worldwide: $11.1M

Budget: $2M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Production compaines: Bridgit Folman Film Gang, Les Films d'Ici, Razor Film Produktion

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 137 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ari Folman

Producer: Ari Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner, Yael Nahlieli, Roman Paul

Starring: Ari Folman as Himself (voice), Ron Ben-Yishai as Himself (voice), Dror Harazi as Himself (voice), Ronny Dayag as Himself (voice)

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