Waltz With Bashir - An Hypnotic Journey To A Shattering Reality

                          War is hell. Movies have told us this truth much, vividly and brutally. So to note that "Waltz With Bashir" pertains the impact of the First Lebanon War on young men with the Israeli Defense Forces  might lead you to think if the film has anything new to say. But "Waltz With Bashir," with its groundbreaking mixture of documentary aesthetics, and animation, is a very innovative war drama, that has the hallucinatory power of "Apocalypse Now."

                         Ari Folman was a 19-year-old Israeli soldier in the Lebanon war, in 1982. But he had oppressed almost all memories of that time until 20 years later, when a friend, named Boaz recited a recurring nightmare of a pack of snarling, vicious dogs marauding the streets of Tel Aviv. This unnerving dream is the first thing we see in this remarkable movie :  A pack of frothing, gun-metal-colored dogs tears through the streets. The sky is yellow, the town beneath it is steely gray. A woman clutches her baby. A man is overturned, then menaced by, one of the snarling hounds with yellow eyes. The hounds make their way to an apartment building, howling, calling out, demanding the attention of a man who comes to the window.

                        It turns out that Boaz was a soldier in Lebanon who was ordered to kill all the barking dogs in a village so that Palestinian terrorists would not be warned of the approach of the Israeli troops. Ari Folman talks to a therapist about his lack of memory. He then visits a old friend Carmi, who now lives in Holland. Carmi, also a soldier recalls shooting an old Mercedes with his comrades and discovering that the car contained a family of civilians. Slowly and gradually, Folman begins to piece together the savage, surreal experience of that war, which culminated in the massacre at the refugee camps, where Christian Phalangist militia slaughtered hundreds of unarmed Palestinians while the Israelis looked on.
                       It's hard to describe the genre of "Waltz With Bashir." You could say that it is a "antiwar autobiography," because it proceeds directly from the writer/director’s own experiences as an Israeli Defense Force soldier during the 1982 Lebanese War, which included the two-day massacre of thousands, of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians by a Lebanese militia group. However, the crux of the film is that Folman does not remember anything that happened during that period. Thus, Folman instantly establishes a narrative premise that draws the audience in by creating a mystery, but also annotates effectively on the very nature of history and memory and how both are revered, but ultimately unreliable. 
                       Animation turns out to be a surprisingly heavy way to recover memories and discover fresh meanings. Like the 2008 Academy Award-nominated feature, "Persepolis," about a childhood spend in pre- and post- revolution Tehran, this film relates a modern-day story of enduring tension with fresh visions. "Waltz With Bashir" demonstrates that animation is not just a genre but an increasingly artistic way to tell all kinds of stories. An escape into the graphically generated images gives both storyteller and audience a chance to wrestle in a different realm with images of human conflict we are perhaps too weak, too tired, or too hardened to engage. Folman's work, took two years to animate, and was done by a team of artists who combined hand-drawing with the latest technology. 

                     Although the movie recounts a particular period of history and its continuous impact on some survivors, the story is universal. We were recalled of those who stood by and did nothing to help the Jews when they were being sent to concentration camps to be killed. Folman doesn't give any hope that remembering history will end the Arab-Israeli cycle of revenge, but he refuses to let us take refuge in ignorance.

                     The movie title comes from a journalist's description of a soldier shooting at everything in sight, on a Beirut street - in a waltz-like motion. The soldier himself recalls gunning down a teenage boy after the youngster fired a grenade at his unit. Then, finally the film’s controversial closing shots, which jarringly rip us from the realm of the animated into actual atrocity footage that, the film has been building toward since its very first frames. Folman thrusts us directly into the low-res video reality of unspeakable violence that his own psyche has forced him to forget. 

                     "Waltz With Bashir" is a milestone work and a powerful statement about human cost of larger-than-life battles, its violence, and the toll it takes on the human soul. 


Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

I watched this film many years and I was left in awe. Your review today has once again left me in awe. Will watch it again soon :)

Arun Kumar said...

Thank You Haricharan.

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

Waltz with Bashir is definitely a landmark in cinema, not just for the way it uses animation to tell a war story. Even the storyline itself is on par with the self-explorations of the European masters. Love this film and wish everyone sees it.

Unknown said...

I would love to watch this movie based on your review.

FolkTalesUrbanLegends said...

Heard a lot about it. I want to watch it.

Arun Kumar said...

@Subhorup, Thanks for the comment.

@Shalu Sharma, Thank you.

@Sandeep, Would love to hear ur opinion, once you watched the movie.