Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Waltz_with_Bashir_PosterFew other films can claim to be anything like this film, a great experiment in the art of animation. Based on the personal experiences of the director, this film attempts to explore the horrors of being involved in war, but it also does more than that. It shows war from both perspectives, though mainly the perspective of the soldier attempting to regain his memory, delving in the ugly history of the war he was involved in.

The film is an animated documentary, and while certainly not the first film, it’s definitely unique in terms of its style, subject matter, and realism. The director of the film, Ari Folman, served as a soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces in 1982, when he fought during the Lebanon War. For some reason, he has no memory of his experiences of the war, and so he spends the film attempting to uncover his memories of the war though conversation with some old friends, and other Israelis who were present in Beirut at the time. His journey eventually leads him to recall his memories the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, and the reason he forgot them to begin with.

Folman’s journey in the film is a very compelling one, the kind that shows a frank and earthy composure in the dark regions of the film’s subject matter. The interviews are essentially how the plot moves forward, and they were quite fascinating. Thanks to the subtitles, English-language viewers can get a glimpse of the real character that shines through in this film. Of course, as the film goes on, it becomes more about the war than the man who fought in it, and perhaps inevitably so.

The film’s style of animation is perhaps the most striking thing about the film. Some have mistaken it as example of rotoscoping, a technique where animation is drawn over live footage. While there is actual footage at the end of the film (which I assume was put there for dramatic effect), the animators never drew over it. The animation was created almost like a Flash animation, though I believe there is more to it than simply that (having used the software as an iMedia student, I don’t believe Adobe Flash has the right tools to make a feature film). In fact, the film uses classic animation and 3D technologies as well as Flash animation, and these technologies are utilized brilliantly.

The film also displays an incredible degree of realism in terms of both its subject matter and the art style, wherein the characters look a lot like real people. I’ll admit that had the film not been animated in the way that it had been, it might not have been as interesting, but regardless, the end result works very well as a captivating tour de force. Superbly innovative as a documentary, but I like to think of it as more than that. Waltz with Bashir offers what is perhaps one of the most original film experiences in recent history, and one of the most brutally honest films I’ve seen so far.

  • Score: 86%
  • Grade: A
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