Welcome to Animation Globe where we analyse animated films from around the world. Today’s entry is 2008 Israeli movie Waltz with Bashir. The first feature length Israeli animated film, written and directed by Ari Folman, it tells the story of a man and his search for his lost memories of his experiences as a soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War.
Acting like a fictional autobiography, Folman documents the pain and horrors of war and the lasting effects that it has on the soldiers and civilians. This was my first time viewing this film, and despite knowing the subject matter from prior reading, I was taken back by the gritty style and horrifying imagery – the way that the terrors are depicted as repressed within the Israeli mind, but are still a solid part of their history.
We along with the protagonist journey to rediscover the war and piece by piece, put together the complex history as we move to the climactic transition from animation to live action footage. The themes here are so solid in their depiction. Going into this, I was unsure how the film would portray the darkness, especially through animation. Taking four years to complete, the animation style stands out for its gritty sharp edges and comic book aesthetic, (no wonder it was adapted into a comic in 2009). The darker colours chosen to represent each shot only serve to highlight the dark tones of the film’s setting. The style, somewhat reminiscent of the rotoscoping technique, is actually a flash animation/classic animation combination pieced together to create the illusionary movement that emotes throughout.
The soundtrack adds to the imagery, almost providing a social commentary of its own through well chosen songs like OMD’s Enola Gay. It weaves through the narrative, helping to unify the mesmerising messages about the Middle East during war torn times. We are able to watch as Ari explores his own inner trauma and the trauma of those around him – characters, all of which are, or are based on, real people.
The way each of the latter tell their point of view to Ari as he interviews them and how each offers support on helping Ari with the situation of remembering the war is fascinating. We are given segments of the suffering of war through their eyes, the intense flashbacks here proving that animating a documentary was the right way to go in depicting the scenes. What is important about this is that we see how each character has had their lives shaped by the events and how they managed to deal with it up to that point, be it through repression or otherwise.
The innovative style of this film should be recognised, standing up there with other classic war films such as Saving Private Ryan. The way that it manages to captivate the audience through its visuals and darker tone is intense, to say the least, never shying away from brutal imagery. Waltz with Bashir is a very different type of film that left me in awe after my viewing. It captures emotion, intrigue, regret and fear and bundles it all up into a strong cinematic experience that delivers with each and every shot.
From simple scenes of two characters drinking to moments of soldiers dodging bullets and diving for cover, Folman manages to paint what war is to so many in a modern world. This hard hitting docu-drama is a must watch that hammers home political analysis and looks at how truth doesn’t always solely depend on facts but upon the memories and truths of an individual who views them. Animation has been, for so many years associated with light hearted cute tones. To see this stark contrast is both powerful and compelling. Waltz with Bashir is a rare gem, one that will stand the test of time, constantly looking at the effects of war, something that continues to plague our world.