Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Waltz With Bashir

I had no regrets taking time out of this unusually sunny day to catch a matinee of Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir. This is an animated documentary about Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Mr. Folman, a participant in that war, begins by claiming not to remember any of it. In the film he goes on a journey to collect the stories of his old war buddies. He comes to acknowledge his own complicity in the massacre of Palestinian civilians & to recognize his important role as a witness. It's a damning anti-war film & implies that Israel itself may not have learned the lessons of the Holocaust.

It looks like much of the movie was shot in live action, then traced over as animation. The images have a flat look, like comic book illustrations. Animation allows the director to depict the hallucinatory atmosphere of combat & to explore the dynamic & constructed nature of memory. The very effective soundtrack includes angry rock songs, snippets of Bach & Chopin, & original music by Max Richter. I gladly sat through the credits so I could listen to all of a hauntingly beautiful cello piece.

The filmmaker represents the recovery of his experiences by abruptly switching to documentary video footage at the very end. Animation is traditionally associated with fictional narratives. This final video testimony lets us know that there is nothing any less real about the preceding accounts. Given that events in Gaza continue to occupy the news, the film is sadly pertinent. I needed to take a long, quiet walk home afterward.

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