Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Review - Waltz with Bashir (2008 - Ari Folman)

Brilliant, I thought, a cross between Deep Space 9 and Strictly Come Dancing. What can go wrong? Surely Alexander Siddig and Bruce Forsyth are in it? Er... no. And it's a film about a man trying to recall his memories of events in the 1982 Lebanon War. Ah... maybe this isn't the light-hearted sequin festival I was expecting.

When Ari Folman (the director) was 19 years old, he was a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. After realising that he has been burying memories about a massacre being perpetrated by members of the Lebanese Christian Phalange militia, he interviews various people, including a psychologist and people who he believes were there with him. So Waltz with Bashir is a documentary. But it's also animated.

The animation is slightly disappointing with a severe Flash animation look. It takes a while to accept it, although it helps that there are some gorgeous images. One recurring image of Ari and two of his buddies rising from the water at sunset and walking, naked, towards the city, is particularly great. Another aspect of the film that goes a long way to glossing over the dubious animation is the music. The minimalist score by Max Richter is one of my favourites for quite a while. Well worth a listen.

I've reviewed a couple of films recently that employ the use of switching between styles or techniques to create a great emotional impact (colour to black and white news footage in The Hindenburg, and black and white to colour in Portrait of Jennie). At a critical moment, Waltz with Bashir uses a similar technique. It pulls the film together and makes the story real for the viewer. Great stuff.

The thread of Ari trying to recall his lost memories runs through the film and is probably the most engaging aspect. Other stories are woven into this, but they are not necessarily connected, creating a larger picture of war. This gives the film the feel of an anthology with the usual problem of some parts being better than others. Despite this, if a film is able to make me interested enough in an historical event to make me want to learn more, then it's got to be pretty good (and it's also way better than any Star Trek/glitter prance crossover could ever hope to be).


If you like this you could also try:
Persepolis, City of Life and Death, The Congress.

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