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  Waltz with Bashir War Memorial
Year: 2008
Director: Ari Folman
Stars: Ari Folman, Ori Sivan, Ronny Dayag, Shmuel Frenkel, Zahava Solomon, Ron Ben-Yishai, Dror Harazi, Mickey Leon, Yehezkel Lazarov
Genre: War, Documentary, AnimatedBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Writer Ari Folman met up with a friend in a bar one night, and the man was troubled, needing someone to talk to. Ari was ideal, and sat patiently as a recurring nightmare was described to him, one where his friend would be chased by a pack of twenty-six ravenous, aggressive dogs, and the dream would always end with him having to face them. He interpreted this as to do with the guilt he felt hailing from the 1982 war in the Lebanon that Israel was involved with, for at that time he was ordered to shoot the dogs in the villages lest they alert the locals to the army's approach. But why can't Ari recall any of his tour of duty?

Indeed, why can't Ari recall any of the terrible events of the past at all? Such is the spark of half-lost memory that drives Waltz with Bashir, an animated film on a subject that it's safe to say not many cartoons had been made about, which rendered the experience all the more vivid. Not that you feel as if you're landed in the time it depicts and that Ari is trying to get back, as the style and often surreal nature of events were something that made it all too appropriate that this began with a dream - Ari cannot even then place himself in that situation that is gradually coming back to him, and needs that remove to deal with the atrocities.

Atrocities that he was a part of, not a major part but he was involved, making this a very personal take on what turns out to be a tale of a massacre of Palestinians the Christians in the area carried out, with the (unofficial) full support of the Israelis, and all in revenge for the assassination of the Bashir of the title, a statesman who many hopes were pinned on to bring some kind of stability to the region. Whether that would have happened had he lived is not of the concern here, as it's Ari and his viewpoint that we continually return to, and the images of him floating in the sea at night, then seeing lights fall on the city drawing him back to dry land, a memory he has trouble making sense of.

What you have here is the basic Citizen Kane set up, where the journalist interviews various people to fill in the details of a mystery, though that mystery is not a person in this case but a dire event. Folman did indeed interview those he felt could assist, from those he knew at the time to a psychiatrist and a television reporter, and like a jigsaw what happened is pieced together. The unusual method in relaying this, pretty much 99% Flash animation created on the computer, offered Folman far more freedom in conjuring up those reminiscences than simply trawling the archives for documentary footage would have done, though in its curious way this operates as a documentary as well.

Waltz with Bashir was as much a study of how we bring back and live with yesteryear as it was an examination of the lot of the average soldier, and the question that preys on the mind is "Who is responsible for this?", the answer being far more people, officials, military and civilians, than it is comfortable to point any finger of blame at. Although Folman initially believes that he and his cohorts thought they were not really in full possession of the facts, he comes to realise through this raking through the recollections that they knew enough to be aware that there was a dreadful assault on human rights being carried out, and that his life was unavoidably linked to that. The visuals, though not expensive looking, do bring up a succession of circumstances that do appear so far away from what should by all rights be normality that they would be hard to accept if we didn't know they were true - then actual footage of the aftermath is shown, and it all becomes horribly genuine. Music by Max Richter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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