by HELEN GEIB
Waltz With Bashir is a feature-length animated documentary by Israeli writer-director Ari Folman. The ostensible subject is Folman’s attempt to reconstruct his lost memories of his military service in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1982 Lebanon War. The personal story is a springboard to a history lesson, political documentary, inquiry into post-traumatic stress disorder, re-creation of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon from the perspective of the teenage conscripts sent in to do the killing, and critical examination of the construction and reconstruction of memory– individual and national.
The film is entirely animated with the exception of the brief archive news footage that acts as coda to the film. The medium begs the question: why animation for a documentary?
In addition to descriptions of Folman’s own war-inspired dreams and partial memories, the film incorporates interviews with several veterans (a mix of straight interviews and “interviewees” who are fictional composites of real people) about their combat experiences, a psychologist who specializes in the field of psychological trauma, and an Israeli reporter who was in Beirut during the war and reported on the Sabra and Shatila massacre that is the culmination of the film’s wartime story.
The testimony and recounted dreams are dramatized in lengthy, visually striking sequences. The character of the dramatizations ranges from relatively realistic to hallucinatory, in keeping with both the substance of the story being told and the psychological state, then and now, of the teller. Animation in Waltz With Bashir is a powerful tool for the close examination of unwanted memories.
Other new releases this week: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Inkheart, The Pink Panther 2