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Waltz With Bashir

A movie released December 25, 2008

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A HARROWING Animated Tale Of the Dehumanizing Effects of WAR

  • Feb 15, 2010

Back in December 2009, my friend @Christy sent me a dvd of the first animated full-length feature documentary film made in Israel. This film was called “Waltz With Bashir” and I have always been in the hunt for something different and original. This film had won several awards including Best Foreign Language Film in the Golden Globes and was nominated in the Foreign language category in the Oscars. It has also been selected in the Cannes Film festival and has received acclaim from many critics. Directed and written by Ari Folman, the film chronicles his search for the people who had served with him during the First Lebanon war and to awaken his repressed memories. This film was inspired by true events.
Ari Folman (who plays himself) is an Israeli veteran of the 1st Lebanon war. For some reason, he had repressed most of the details of his harrowing experiences in that war; that is until, an old friend opens up about his own nightmares of that conflict. Ari is puzzled as to why his memories are just so incoherent that he can barely remember the important details of his life when he was sent to fight along the front lines. In his quest to fill in the gaps in his memories, Ari reconnects with old friends and dares to confront his repressed memories and the horrors that lie deep in his subconscious…

          A scene from "Waltz With Bashir."

                                 A scene from "Waltz With Bashir."
“Watz with Bashir” is one film that has great ambition. The film is innovative and quite devastating. I was really impressed with the manner that managed to mix a documentary style with animation that manages to go deep into the layers of one man’s remembrance of his forgotten past. Despite the fact that the film is animated, it is utterly powerful and I have never felt this way about an animated feature film since the Japanese anime hit “Grave of the Fireflies”. The film’s main central focus is Folman himself as he brings his experiences and puzzlement into exposition.
Such an exposition would feel more like a self-study or self-investigation. I would have to commend the manner that the story is told; we also get to know the people who played a part in the filmmaker’s life during the war. We see interviews as well as flashbacks, as the characters speak amongst themselves, we are privy to some hidden information regarding the massacre that occurred in Shabra and Shatilla massacre in retaliation for the murder of political leader Bashir. Some reporters also play themselves in the film; I thought that the powerful addition of reporter Ron Ben-Yishai (who also plays himself) made the documentary very credible with his accounts of the massacre.
                A scene from "Waltz With Bashir."

               A scene from "Waltz With Bashir."
There are also several dream sequences as Folman seeks to decode his dream and proves that dreams are indeed windows to our subconscious. We slowly become privy to the reasons why and how Folman would experience such gaps in his memory as well as we can see how some soldiers and journalists can somehow detach themselves from what they’ve seen in order to do their jobs. These were done from the interviews of the people and the psychiatrists who were associated with Folman; filled with long monologues that somehow link the film to its harsh reality by putting the viewer in the shoes of the narrator. “Waltz with Bashir” is powerful as a documentary as we slowly begin the why’s, what’s and the how’s of Folman’s experiences.

             A scene from "Waltz With Bashir."

                         A scene from "Waltz With Bashir."
The animation itself is a mix of traditional animation, digital rendering and some CGI touches. They work quite well as they take the viewer in its settings, they do manage to bring me back in time. I thought the scenes looked like they were coming from the pages of a newspaper strip, and a fine practice in animation that is very different. We see the interview scenes that takes place while we look at lonely scenes and even lush country sides, the colors can look a little unnatural as was intended to exude its own atmosphere. The only complaint I have are the lack of emotions in the characters’ faces, the eyes looked a little cold and the expressions were rather flat. Perhaps this was done intentionally to emphasize the characters’ detachment to the stories but I still thought that it could’ve used better animation in the emotional expressions. It feels a little devoid of humanism that it almost felt like they hampered the narrative. Also, some ideas were introduced but weren’t fully developed. This is a movie with some symbolisms (since some things were dreams) and there is a graphic scene of sex and nudity, so make sure no kids are present when you see this film.
Regardless of some flaws in its execution, I really thought that the film surpassed all expectations and is a fine exercise in the innovation of blending a documentary with stylish animation. The film’s conclusion is powerful as we finally see the reason for Folman’s memory gaps and exhibits a dehumanizing display of the harrowing effects of war. The atrocities we’ve witnessed in the animated sequences does encourage a reaction but it should have been a lot stronger; they are unnerving but somehow, it was missing a little something. They will stay with you after the closing credits though. “WATZ WITH BASHIR“ is a fine exercise in cinematic filmmaking. 

I recommend watching this film in its original Hebrew language with the subtitles as it preserves the authenticity and the mood of the "doco" atmosphere.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
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A HARROWING Animated Tale Of the Dehumanizing Effects of WAR A HARROWING Animated Tale Of the Dehumanizing Effects of WAR

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February 20, 2010
Wow, if the stills are any indication, what an interesting-looking piece. It almost looks like cell shading in a few of those spots. Sounds like it packs a lot of meaning into its prose as well. While it's unlikely I'll ever track this down, I will keep a look out for it. Another interesting gem that would have flown right below the old radar without the Lunch crew. Kudos!
February 16, 2010
Awesome review! I saw a preview for this and thought it looked stunning, but I forgot the title so I haven't known what to look for. So, thanks to you for reminding me. Man, I'm too young to have these memory issues. LOL!
February 16, 2010
HA-HA! What is up with you these days? oh, how long has it been since you posted a review? two months?
February 16, 2010
Well, you want the long boring version or the short boring version? LOL!
February 15, 2010
I've been feeling a documentary mood coming on for some time now and I've also been putting off PERSEPOLIS for age. So maybe I'll bump a bunch of them up and add this one to the list too. There's one about the Amish that I'm really interested in. The title escapes me at the moment, but it's about how their kids are allowed to go and raise hell in the big city when they reach adulthoo in order to decide whether to commit to the Amish way of life or not. There's also one about a haunted house put on by an Evangelical Christian group that's designed to scare kids straght by show them what awaits sinners in hell. Plus CONSTANTINE'S SWORD. Hmmm. What's with all this religious stuff?
February 15, 2010
I know that doco, it's called THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND and the one with the Evangelical group was called JESUS CAMP. I guess religion is one very interesting topic and its range is just so universal since everyone can relate. Who among us hasn't had a run-in with a zealot at one time or another?
February 16, 2010
No, it's not JESUS CAMP, that one's on my other list and I've already seen it but you're right about THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND. I've run into more than my share of zealots. 3 of them actually proved out to be schizophrenics. For some reason schizophrenics always like to tell me things that haven't told their shrinks. I guess it's because I can be very non-judgmental when people start talking about their plants spying on them.
February 16, 2010
sounds kinda creepy when folks like that talk to you. Now I am curious about that religious doco.
More Waltz With Bashir reviews
Quick Tip by . March 28, 2010
posted in Reel Overseas
An astonishing, unique film that is both animated and a documentary. Truly an unforgettable viewing experience!
Quick Tip by . March 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A great film about how the horrors of war & guilt affect a person's memory. The film is quite unique as it is both animated & a documentary.
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About this movie


Waltz with Bashir is a 2008 Israeli animated documentary film written and directed by Ari Folman. It depicts Folman in search of his lost memories from the 1982 Lebanon War.

This film and $9.99, also released in 2008, are the first Israeli animated feature-length films released in movie theaters. Waltz with Bashir premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival where it entered the competition for the Palme d'Or, and since then has won and been nominated for many additional important awards while receiving wide acclaim from critics. It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an NSFC Award for Best Film, a César Award for Best Foreign Film and an IDA Award for Feature Documentary, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language and an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.

The film took four years to complete. It is unusual in it being a feature-length documentary made almost entirely by the means of animation. It combines classical music, 1980s music, realistic graphics and surrealistic scenes together with illustrations similar to comics. The only part of the film which wasn't made by means of animation is a short segment at the very end of the film which shows the documented results of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in a news archive footage.

The animation, with its dark hues representing the overall feel of the film, uses a unique style invented by Yoni Goodman at the ...
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Genre: Documentary, Family
Release Date: December 25, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 27min

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