Review: Waltz with Bashir

Nominated in 2009 for the Academy’s Best Foreign film award, Waltz with Bashir is an honest, documentary style animation about surviving war…

Following the true events and feelings of director Ari Folman who fought in the Lebanon war of 1982, Waltz with Bashir talks like a documentary but features fully animated sequences of the events recounted. This journey is of Folman’s difficulty in remembering anything of the war he was involved in having repressed the memories. He slowly recalls events and makes sense of a dream he had by speaking to other veterans involved.

While the film does its best at a pseudo-narrative, following Folman as he literally goes out and interviews other 1982 war veterans who have since moved on with their lives, there is a weird sense that the audio recordings are literally just one-on-one interviews. While much of the contemporary scenes are just that, sometimes dialogue takes place in a car while travelling between scenes, for example. This isn’t a problem but it does take the audience a little by surprise when realisation hits.

The animation is good. While the film only had a budget of just over $1 million (and it made double back) it does some great work delivering the spectacle, the weird serenity and dreamlike fear and dread that memories and war could both imbue. It isn’t rotascoped, but almost more like Flash animation with shapes being distorted and stretched to suggest the more subtle human expressions and inflections. It provides a dreamlike sensation for the war scenarios, which is ideal.
I also really liked the soundtrack.

Tonally the film is serine and quiet, even the grim horrors; taken from a perspective of someone who experienced them young, and often state how it all washes over them and (obviously) spoken from a perspective of someone who survives. Not that threat is inherently missing, but there wasn’t a great deal of suspense, only cold reality. The film does have strange or even lighter moments dotted around. Perhaps the greatest moment is the film’s titular moment, ‘waltzing with Bashir’.

I found the film interesting, and as someone who knew nothing about the 1982 war in Lebanon I found it insightful. It is a documentary first, animation second. It is compelling and director Ari Folman’s personal involvement does add passion to the tales.


Additional Marshmallows: As seen in the trailer, the dogs right at the start of the film are creepy!


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