Sunday, 19 February 2017

World Cinema - "Waltz with Bashir" (2008) - A review.

Fig 1.

Waltz With Bashir” (2008) written and directed by Ari Folman is an Israeli animated war film, centering on Folman’s search for his lost memories with regards to the 1982 Lebanon war. The importance here, being that, this is very much still a raw subject, and indeed, is so raw, that this film remains banned in Lebanon still. Centering on Ari’s investigation into his past in a pseudo-documentary that’s less anchored in the real world - despite its subject matter - and more akin to the soporific haze of “Apocalypse Now” (1979), part parable, part prosecution, and yet somehow, it manages to portray its subjects in a sympathetic light.

Folman himself hasn’t been majorly prolific in terms of filmmaking, which perhaps makes the success of Waltz that much more a of a victory, but his other feature film “The Congress” (2013) continues the same aesthetic established in his previous work, whilst pushing it into new bounds with the mixing of live action and 2D/3D animation elements. While not as overtly personal and politically charged as Waltz it seems to bear Folman’s touch, nonetheless.

Fig 2.
Describing the aesthetics - which utilise “hyperreal rotoscope-animation techniques, similar to those made famous by Bob Sabiston and Richard Linklater. Live-action footage on videotape has been digitally converted into a bizarre dreamscape in which reality is resolved into something between two and three dimensions.” (Bradshaw, 2008) - This is where the strengths of animation really shine, for another layer has been added here, one that reinforces the detachment so obviously felt by Folman; allowing not only the viewer to more or less comfortably witness events as Folman uncovers them, safe in the knowledge that nothing shown, will shake them. Which makes the films finale that much more poetic and succinct. As the inclusion of live action footage, as Folman has finally pieced his memories of the massacres together. “The decision to suddenly switch from animation to video footage at the movie’s conclusion was, says Folman, “always the plan.” “I just wanted to prevent a situation where someone somewhere would walk out of the theater and think it was a cool anti-war movie with great drawings and music,” he says. “I wanted to put it very clearly that this massacre happened – more than 3,000 people were slaughtered and most of them were kids, women, old people. That video footage puts my story in place, the design and animation style in place, the story in place, and the audience in place.” “(Kaufman, 2008) This is a moment that wouldn’t have worked had the movie been in live action. In fact, this is a rare moment in cinema, where the audience is invited into a dreamworld, only to wake up to the reality of war and conflict in a most harrowing way.

Fig 3.

Fig 4.
In choosing to envelope this story as an animation, Folman has reinforced the confusion felt within war, and conveyed his own disillusionment towards it. “From the beginning, Folman saw Waltz with Bashir as an animated feature, drawing inspiration from graphic novels--many coming out of post-war Bosnia. "If you look at this film," he says, "with [its] lost memory, dreams, war--which is pretty surreal--there is no other way to tell this story." (Adams, 2009). This level of distance, this, separation, is of course, tantamount in setting up the finale’s rather solid gut punch.

With regards to subject matter, to say that this film inhabits troubling territory seems to merely be addressing the proverbial tip of the iceberg, especially when the aforementioned sympathetic tone is brought into the fore. Naira Antoun mentions the lack of humanity ascribed to the portrayal of the Palestinians within the film, “To say that Palestinians are absent in Waltz with Bashir, to say that it is a film that deals not with Palestinians but with Israelis who served in Lebanon” (Antoun, 2009) And while this is true, this is entirely systemic of a story that needed to be told, for ultimately - and perhaps wistfully - it places the blame on those much higher up for their actions in 1982, whilst remaining untainted of that sometimes maudlin anti-war message of American tradition, that would see the guilt shoved down our throats. It is perhaps interesting, that in utilising this conflict to at once absolve the little man in this conflict, Folman has perhaps been a little ignorant of those that are persecuted in this film. In framing it so that “we don’t see Palestinian facial expressions; only a lingering on dead, anonymous faces.” it makes it seem as though “Palestinians are never fully human, Israelis are, and indeed are humanized through the course of the film.“ (Antoun, 2009) Though this doesn’t detract from the films message, nor it’s poignant ending, it is indeed an ending who’s milage may vary depending on who is viewing it. Instead, whilst making a very marked point at the films climax, the film still remains ambiguous in its finger pointing, allowing instead, for the personal stories of the Israelis involved in the film, to take the limelight.  

Importantly though, it is in this more personal approach to such a large conflict, and also in the narrative confusion that pairs with Folman’s real confusion towards his own experiences that allow the audience to perhaps inhabit that moment in time,


Adams, Beige. (2009) At: http://www.documentary.org/magazine/waltz-bashir-fallibility-yet-persistence-memory (Accessed 19/02/17)

Antoun, Naira. (2009) At: https://electronicintifada.net/content/film-review-waltz-bashir/3547 (Accessed 19/02/17)

Bradshaw, Peter. (2008) At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/nov/21/waltz-with-bashir-folman (Accessed 17/02/17)

Kaufman, Debra. (2008) At: http://www.studiodaily.com/2008/12/how-they-did-it-waltz-with-bashir/ (Accessed 19/02/17)


Fig 1. Waltz with Bashir Poster. [image] At: http://www.impawards.com/intl/misc/2008/posters/waltz_with_bashir_ver2.jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Fig 2. Soldier. [image] At: http://filmint.nu/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/waltz_with_bashir-blue-794824.jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Fig 3. The Beach. [image] At: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--_yjqLqL3CQ/Utrooi6kcqI/AAAAAAAAFJc/yFDeuAAsLiw/s1600/Waltz+with+Bashir+(4).jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Fig 4. The Massacre. [image] At: http://www.filmeducation.org/images/events/screenings/WaltzWithBashir.jpg_cmyk.jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Interesting Links

How they did it: "Waltz With Bashir"

1 comment:

  1. FYI!


    Many thanks :)