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Movie Review of Waltz With Bashir - 2008

A Documentary in Animation

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Movie Review of Waltz With Bashir - 2008

Waltz With Bashir

Sony Pictures Classics
In Waltz With Bashir, documentary filmmaker Ari Folman investigates the meaning of his own troubling dreams and memories generated by his wartime experiences while fighting with the Israeli army in Lebanon. The film, produced entirely in animation which gives it a disturbingly surrealistic and dreamlike quality, pushes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, making it a profoundly compelling and creative representation of the horrors of war and their long-lasting effects on the human psyche.

Animated Documentary Pushes the Boundaries of Nonfiction Filmmaking

Waltz With Bashir follows filmmaker Ari Folman’s personal quest to discover the meaning of disturbing hallucinations he has from his days as an Israeli soldier fighting in Lebanon. Folman is the documentary‘s director and lead character; the film is almost entirely animated.

At the beginning, Folman’s animated self listens to a former battle buddy describe his recurring nightmares about dogs rampaging through a town--it's a dream, he explains, that‘s connected with his battle task of killing dogs in enemy towns before their barking alerted residents to the presence of Israeli soldiers. Folman asks whether his friend has sought therapy. “No,” the friend remarks, “I called you.” When Folman asks why his friend called a filmmaker, the friend responds that films are therapeutic.

So, Folman, whose own disturbing images of war--of young naked dead men rising out of the sea--are triggered by his friends' description of the rampaging dogs, sets out on a journey of self discovery in film, one intended to reveal to himself--and to the film’s viewers--the meaning of the horrific images that have come back to haunt him.

At the suggestion of a therapist friend, Folman seeks out and questions other men with whom he served. Now much older and following individual paths, they, too, are haunted by terrible memories--and their stories of war experiences gradually unfold, their individual and collective memories, as objectified in Folman's animated film, present a compelling and profoundly unsettling depiction of the horrors of war and its indelible effects on the psyche of those who survive.

Brilliant Use of Cinematic Elements

Folman's conceit for this documentary about his own experiences in and resulting from the 1982 Lebanon War and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila is unusual and it works brilliantly. Folman's directorial intention is completely supported by and fully realized through his sophisticated use of animation. The drawing is beautiful and subtle. Characters are drawn with extraordinary nuance of expression. By maintaining complete control over the film’s visual and audio elements, Folman provides the audience with a sort of dreamlike experience and an enlightening journey of their own. The film is a foray into the realm of memory and imagination.

Waltz With Bashir's captivating meditative quality comes from Folman’s--and his production team’s--complete control of cinematic elements. Their exquisite and always appropriate use of composition and color, of dark and light, of camera movement and positioning, as well as the quality of the dialog (with Folman and his fellow soldiers actually voicing their animated selves), background sound and music--in other words, all the filmmaker’s tools--creates an extraordinary work of art that commands you to watch it more than once, and reveals itself anew each time you see it.

Waltz With Bashir is a rare masterpiece that must be seen and treasured.

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Film Details:

  • Release Date: July, 2008, in Israel
  • Running Time: 90 mins.
  • MPAA Rating: Rated R for some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: Israel
  • Language: Hebrew, German, English, with English subtitles
  • Company: Sony Pictures Classics
  • Numerous US and International Nominations and Awards
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