Waltz with Bashir
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Inspired by actual events, Waltz with Bashir chronicles one man's descent into his own half-forgotten past. Filmmaker Ari Folman, an Israeli veteran of the First Lebanon War, encounters an old friend suffering from nightmares of the conflict. Ari begins to wonder why his own memories are full of gaps. In an effort to uncover the truth, he reconnects with old friends and dares to confront the horrors of war. Hailed as "innovative" and "devastating," Waltz with Bashir fuses animation and documentary to create an experience unlike anything you've ever witnessed.
Waltz with Bashir presents an intriguing riddle: is a documentary still a documentary if it's animated? Taking over where fact-based animations like Waking Life and Chicago 10 left off, Israel’s Ari Folman tries to wrap his head around 1982's Lebanon War (the title refers to Lebanese leader Bashir Gemayel). Why do disturbing dreams plague his former army colleagues, while he remembers nothing? Folman meets with nine of them to find out. As they speak, animators recreate their experiences, but instead of rotoscoping or video-capture, Folman first shot his film on video and then assembled an animated version from the resulting storyboards. This graphic-novel approach suits their strange, surrealistic stories and parallels the work of Black Hole's Charles Burns, who tends to walk on the shadowy side (as opposed to Marjane Satrapi's more fanciful Persepolis). War may be hell, but moments of grace and beauty shine through, best exemplified by Roni Dayag’s recollection of a late-night swim away from the scene of a beachfront battle. Decades later, he still remembers the soothing peacefulness of the water. These reminiscences nudge Folman's repressed memories back to the surface, culminating in a horrific massacre to which he bore witness. Arguably, he didn't need to include actual footage of the deceased when stylized graphics get the point across fine. If Waltz with Bashir isn't a documentary in the conventional sense, it doesn't resemble most animated efforts either. What matters more is the harrowing narrative he constructs from out of the minds of these haunted men. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Waltz With Bashir (click for larger image)
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1. Don’t let the title fool you. This is not about dancing. At least, not in the way you’re thinking.