Wednesday, December 1, 2021

#2,670. Waltz with Bashir (2008)


A stunning yet ultimately disturbing animated documentary, Waltz with Bashir is more than a war movie; it is a journey into the mind.

In 1982, when he was 19 years old, Ari Folman (the film’s writer / director) was in the Israeli military, and served as an infantryman during the war in Lebanon. For years, his memory of this time period has been hazy, but when his old friend Boaz (voiced by Miki Leon) relates the story of a recurring nightmare he’s had since serving in Lebanon, Folman himself experiences a dream about the war that he cannot explain, and wonders if it has something to do with the Sabra and Shatila Massacres, for which he was present, yet remembers nothing.

In an effort to trigger his memory, Folman visits with fellow veterans of that war, hoping their stories will somehow help him recall what his mind seemingly wants him to forget.

Though it paints a harrowing picture of warfare (the skirmishes can be tense and unflinchingly violent) Waltz With Bashir is more effective as a human drama, an exploration of how a soldier’s mind can alter, manipulate, even suppress painful memories as a means of coping with the trauma of battle. Shmuel Frenkel (voiced by himself) served in the same unit as Folman, and while talking with him one day, Folman is surprised to find that he has completely forgotten an incident involving a young Palestinian boy, who was shot dead after firing on them with an RPG.

All this, combined with a number of memorable sequences (the opening scene, a visual representation of Boaz’s dream in which 26 angry dogs run through the streets of Tel Aviv, is especially intense); an intriguing mystery at its center; and a (non-animated) ending that will shake you to your core, does its part to ensure that Waltz with Bashir will stay with you long after it is over.

It is unlike any animated film I have ever seen before.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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