Why would a veteran and filmmaker, attempting to piece together his lost memories of a brutal war, turn to animation to tell his story? For many, animation is still cloaked in the cultural stigma of cartoons—of inconsequential entertainment. So the decision to render a film about war and psychology in animated form is surprising. At least, until you actually see it.
Waltz With Bashir is a 2008 movie by Ari Folman, a documentary filmmaker who fought in the Israeli Army during the 1982 Lebanon War—and was nearby during the climax of the conflict, when Lebanese Christian fighters massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the infamous Sabra and Shatila Massacre outside of Beirut, aided by Israeli troops who did nothing.
But, you see, Folman can't actually remember where he was during those moments, or what he was doing. Waltz With Bashir is a film about his struggle to rediscover his memories more than two decades after they occurred. It begins with a series of interviews with his wartime friends, now scattered across the world, who recall memories and stories that play out across the screen in an intense pastiche of narrated stories, hallucinations, and hazy nightmares.
All this is expertly rendered in a lace of Mediterranean pastels and 1980s neon against the dark tones of conflict by animation director Yoni Goodman, and set to an equally brilliant score by the composer Max Richter, who pairs gut-wrenchingly spare original compositions with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
The film—which is beautiful, funny, and hopeful at times—culminates in a horrifying final scene that is, appropriately, the only documentary video footage in the film.
It's definitely worth checking out if you missed it the first time around. You can stream it on Amazon.
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