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Waltz with Bashir (Vals Im Bashir)

June 21, 2009

Note:  May contain spoilers

I don’t understand even a single word of Hebrew. Yet had I seen this film directed by Ari Folman without the English subtitles, I am sure I would have grasped what he wanted to convey through his animated documentary film. That’s the power of great cinema. Sometimes the moving images speak a language far more profound than what words can describe. “Waltz with Bashir” belongs to a category which cannot be described under normal theories. This multi-layered story is one man’s journey to find answers and solve the jig saw puzzle of his memory. It’s probably one of the most disturbing, surrealistic and harrowing films you will ever see which fiddles with themes like War, War Crimes, Fanaticism, Chaos, Genocide, Peace, Loss of Memory, Guilt, Phobia, indifference etc., On a different note, “Waltz with Bashir” was the first animated documentary film to be nominated for an Oscar in best foreign film’s category and has won numerous awards till date including Golden Globe, BAFTA etc.

The story traverses the life of Ari Folman, who suffers from a memory blackout when he tries to remember about the 1982 Lebanon War. One of his friends advice him to meet all those people whom he remembers back from the war and perhaps through them he will learn what had actually happened in the war. The journey takes him to Europe and later back to Israel where he meets his friends, seniors in the regiment and a journalist who played a significant role in stopping a brutal massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut. In the process, Folman has a spasm which brings back harrowing memories of the war and breaks him down emotionally.

“Waltz with Bashir” is remarkable because despite a war backdrop it doesn’t glorify war. Ari Folman knows exactly what he doing and the way in which the story unfolds paves way for more gut wrenching and disturbing details to be presented for the audience is thought provoking. The films begins with a scary dream which Ari’s friend, Boaz has been dreaming for almost 20 years. When he confronts Ari about this issue, Boaz asks Ari if he remembers anything from the war. This ignites the curiosity to find out the reason behind his own dream which leads him to meet several people and interview them about the war.

There are several instances in the movie which at times makes your jaw drop or sometimes make you close your eyes for a moment to brood upon the theme. Several motifs like dreams and songs appear several times throughout the movie. The use of hallucinations to present the moral dilemma and confusion of the protagonist and that of music which comes as a glimmer of hope amidst the ongoing war is a stunning piece of art. Couple of songs like “Good Morning, Lebanon” and “I bombed Beirut” are brilliant and at times funny. Ari Folman’s film also throws light on some other issues like our mental condition when it comes to remembering some terrible things from the past. When Ari consults an expert in this issue, she talks about “Disassociative Events” which help us in disconnecting from reality. War is a terrible thing that one can endure and especially for soldiers, innocent civilians caught in the middle of crossfire it can be even more terrifying. In one of the scenes, Ari breathtakingly conveys the Fear of Unknown which soldiers often face and they are so helpless that all they can do is just shoot in all directions. The film also has a subtle commentary on our infatuation for death as a means to end the suffering. In the end the film is about accepting that we have committed a terrible mistake which cost thousands of innocent lives and that we are all guilty for being so indifferent towards all that brutality.

“Waltz with Bashir” owes a lot to Yooni Goodman’s inventive techniques in animation, Roiy Nitzan’s stunning visual effects, breathtaking art direction by David Polonsky and some haunting music by Max Ritcher. Editing by Nili Feller is spot on and it’s almost impossible to find fault with anything in the movie. Finally, Ari Folman who takes the responsibility of  Writing and Directing this masterpeice takes a stand which I suppose quite a few filmmakers will ever take. To acknowledge that a lot of innocent lives had been sacrificed in the name of war and that all of us should be ashamed for what we have done is a bold statement to make.

This is definitely one of the best anti-war movies you will ever see and I hope it heralds a new wave of similar themes. There are hundreds of stories from countries around the world like Sri Lanka, Sudan, Chad, India, Pakistan, Iraq and many more African countries which have to be told to the world. And if we don’t raise the voice now, chances are that there won’t be anyone left to hear them tomorrow. Two thumbs up for Ari Folman’s surrealistic, provocative, harrowing and deeply disturbing work of art in “Waltz with Bashir”. It’s a gem of a movie which has to be watched and rewatched several times.

P.S: One of my favourite films of the year….it’s not everytime that I have to watch a movie atleast 5 times and write about 8 pages of notes before even attempting to write a review/post on that! And I am sure I have fallen short of words here….

P.P.S: Just realised that this is my 250th post!..:)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2009 7:03 pm

    I love what your doing here. Keep up the good work!


  2. June 22, 2009 12:53 pm

    usefull article . i’ll bookmark your blog

  3. Onion Insights permalink
    June 23, 2009 4:53 pm

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  4. prashanth permalink
    June 23, 2009 6:41 pm

    hi ra ….

    a very great film indeed…. but this came a long time ago and u r reviewing it now…. plz keep people updated…. afterall everyone is not a movie buff like us….

    • Hemanth permalink*
      June 23, 2009 6:55 pm

      @CRP: Dei…didn’t know that you had seen this film! Was it after I told you about it sometime in Feb? Well, for this film I did take a lot of time to write a review…have to keep writing more and more and right when I see it.

      Eppudu raasamu ani kaadhu thambi, Review undha ledha annadhe matteru!!..:P

      Intlo naaku (I meant the blog) koncham hype ivvara!..:D

  5. sesha permalink
    June 24, 2009 11:52 am

    Congrats on ur 250th post. Nice review … will move this one up in my ‘must see’ list.

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