Waltz with Bashir

7 Feb

Waltz with Bashir

I don’t know how to begin. This film is powerful. It’s devastating. Great, but devastating. It has filled my head with thoughts of war: senseless fear, violence, suffering.  There’s no room left for ideas of an effective introduction. I’m going to be lazy and go on without one.

Waltz with Bashir is a film by Israeli writer, director, and producer Ari Folman. Before he started his career in film, he was a 19-year-old soldier fighting in the Lebanon War of 1982. In the winter of 2006, his friend, another former soldier, told him of a recurring nightmare he kept having, which was tied to his memories of the war. Soon after, Ari himself started having his own dream, a flashback to the Sabra and Shatila massacre of West Beirut. Seeking to make sense of this dream, he met with his lawyer friend, who explained to him that his flashback may or may not have been real. He advised Ari to find others who were in the war in order to recover his lost memories. Taking his friend’s advice, Ari found and conducted interviews with several of his partners from the war, as well as a psychologist who helped him to understand why his memories were lost and a journalist who was in Beirut at the time of the massacre. Ari pieced those interviews and his own recovered memories together to make this film.

What he has really collected through these interviews are stories from the war. These stories, as well as Ari’s own, explore the bleakest side of war: young soldiers constantly shooting at an enemy that is hardly ever visible, on their way to dump the bodies of their dead and wounded allies; a young boy with an RPG who becomes a casualty; a soldier who loses it, spinning wildly about in the street, spraying bullets all around; the mindless slaughter of men, women, children, and animals. This movie brings the stories to life with bold, powerful imagery and fantastic animation. There’s no arguing that the film is very well made. Still, it can be hard to watch. It’s a film that makes you feel the sickening trauma and guilt these soldiers suffer. Through the unraveling of Ari’s memory, the movie plunges deeper and deeper into the despair of the war until the tragic end of the massacre in Beirut. The film does not leave the viewer with any resolution, but instead with images that will haunt them for weeks to come.

I would still recommend the film, because it’s so powerful, and because it has powerful statements to make about fear, remorse, and especially about the nature of modern warfare. It’s a film that has affected me so much, I can’t even think of an effective conclusion. Ok, it’s more likely just because I’m tired. Still, great movie.

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Next time, I try to take down two films in a week, starting with Precious. Will my head explode from all of the critiquing I’m forcing on myself? Stayed tuned to find out!

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