Waltz with Bashir

Ari Folman


This, along with “The Dark Knight,” was the best film of 2008. That neither of them were nominated for Best Picture (and that “Waltz” didn’t even win Best Foreign!) is yet more proof that the “Academy” is completely irrelevant. Take a look at the Best Picture field and tell me that all of those movies are better than these two, I dare you. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”? I can’t even think of a saracastic-enough comment to illustrate the inanity.

Back to the point: “Waltz” was also one of the most intense viewing experiences I’ve ever had, “Requiem for a Dream” being the only other competition. If you haven’t seen it, I can promise you that if you watch it, it will be one of the most unique film experiences of your life. No description can adequately prepare you, because nothing like it has ever been done. That alone gets a movie more than halfway to 10 stars in my book.

It is the story of a very specific moment of Israeli history — the 1982 Lebanon war, and more specifically the Sabra and Shatila massacres — told from the perspective of a young soldier who cannot remember the events due to a vague PTSD-based amnesia. He spends the film trying to reconstruct what happened through interviews with his comrades.

I will go ahead and admit that I don’t know how much of this is factual. Folman presents the story in a pseudo-documentary style, complete with interviews with presumably real people, whose stories are then animated and stylized to appear fantastical. I have researched a little and it seems like most of the events actually happened, although many people criticize Folman for whitewashing the role of the Israeli army (IDF) during the massacres. I am writing this review under the assumption that Folman’s interviewees were actual participants in the war, and not actors. It is actually irrelevant even if I’m mistaken, since either way his story-telling method is wildly imaginative and deserving of more praise than I can reasonably offer from this wee corner of cyberspace.

The events are told in large part by the monotonous voiceovers of apathetic Israeli veterans. Their words are juxtaposed with exaggerated depictions of the events in question, often employing rich absurdity and incredibly dark satire. Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or just stare wide-eyed and stunned. The visuals of the film alone are ground-breaking enough to merit your attention for 90 minutes. Do yourself a favor and watch this film.

17 March 2010

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