Documentary of the Day – Waltz with Bashir
February 23, 2012 Leave a comment
Well this is my first and only, animated documentary selection. Actually, this is the first and only documentary film out there. I was fascinated with the premise of a documentary that utilizes animation to tell a story that is both harrowing and insightful, framing the atrocities and hardship that only existed in the experiences of one man. A truly engaging documentary that takes the experiences and memories of one man, reflecting and searching for meaning during his time in the Lebanon War in 1982, and brings them to life through the use of animation.
Director Ari Folman‘s animated, quasi-documentary Waltz With Bashir follows the filmmaker’s emotional attempt to decipher the horrors that unfolded one night in September of 1982, when Christian militia members massacred more than 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the heart of Beirut as Israeli soldiers surrounded the area. Folman was one of those soldiers, but nearly 20 years after the fact, his memories of that night remain particularly hazy. After hearing an old friend recall a vivid nightmare in which he is pursued by 26 ferocious dogs, Folman and his friend conclude that the dream must somehow relate to that fateful mission during the first Lebanon War. When Folman realizes that his recollections regarding that period in his life seem to have somehow been wiped clean, he travels the world to interview old friends and fellow soldiers from the war. Later, as Folman‘s memory begins to emerge in a series of surreal images, he begins to uncover a truth about himself that will haunt him for the rest of his days. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
I decided to just use a synopsis that was done so I don’t spend all my time going into the memories of the a man remember his role in the Lebanon War. The film is interesting in that the animation is what is driving the story along. It’s not a documentary per say, rather its a confessional of Folman’s memories and coming to terms with what happened during wartime. His recanting of the time he spent in the army and what he experienced are just fractured memories until he comes closer to what he is wanting to understand in his journey of putting together the acts of war.
Often times we use “paint us a picture” to have someone tell us a story or memory with vivid details, Waltz with Bashir does that with such gorgeously done broad strokes that you are immersed in the memory, either good or bad. The visuals are astounding with layering photo realistic settings along with a traditional, cutout animation. It gives it a rough look, but the fluidity of the animation and color palette brings such a lucid and captivating image to the screen. It’s not rotoscoping, which is live action and then animation over the film as there is no footage to use. This is the depiction of the memories and dreams of Folman, allowing the animation to truly take on a life of its own.
This isn’t an easy movie to watch, mainly because the subject matter is real and often frightening. It’s wartime depicted from the viewpoint of a man who some would say committed atrocities. Others will say that he was doing his duty as a soldier. But while he is on a journey to find the truth in his actions, he builds a world around him with interviews from fellow friends and soldiers, adding additional pieces and layers to the memories and time. Ultimately, the end of the journey has two effective outcomes, both of which are as satisfying as a narrative story and emotional journey.
In the end, Waltz with Bashir is a therapeutic session for one man to make sense of it all. It is his story initially, but as he dives further into understanding all that he has done, it’s the people and fellow soldiers that make up the whole of the memory. Folman does more to describe the terrible aspects of war than most war movies can even attempt to do. They, Folman and his fellow veterans, turn out to be victims in an ongoing struggle. It hits you and Folman right where it counts and the emotional consequences of war and death are relayed from Folman to you. Stunning, powerful and beautiful all describe the journey and memory of a torn individual figuring it all out.
*images via RottenTomatoes