Starring: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag
Director: Ari Folman
Running Time: 90 mins
Waltz With Bashir (ואלס עם באשיר) is an Israeli documentary about a former soldier who interviews fellow veterans as he attempts to reconstruct his memories of the 1982 Lebanon War.
This is a very interesting film. Not only does it look at a part of history that we don’t often see on the big screen, but it goes about doing so in an innovative and largely effective way, making for a memorable and engrossing watch.
Let’s start off with what really makes this film so unique: the animation. Does a drama about the War in Lebanon need to be animated? Not particularly. However, there’s something impressively powerful about the use of animation instead of live-action in this film.
Mainly, the style of the animation is very dark, but it produces a powerfully eerie effect, heightening your sense of unease towards the nature of the soldiers’ actions in the war, one of the film’s main messages.
However, what’s even more impressive about the decision to use animation here is that it makes the core of the film’s main character and story even more understandable, and as such more affecting.
As we follow a former soldier retrace his forgotten steps during the war, we come to realise the concept of emotional detachment from the reality and horror of conflict. Through animation, we get that same sense of being detached one step further from the real world, thus giving the main character’s plight a more relatable and powerful edge.
So, it’s clear that this is a very well-thought out film, but it’s not just the animation that makes it so innovative.
Throughout, the film seems to drift incredibly fluidly between the structure of a narrative drama and that of a documentary. As a result, there’s the strong emotional power of the film’s most dramatic moments, however the documentary style (which usually crops up when we see Bashir asking others questions about his past) strengthens the idea that we’re not just watching a historical drama, rather a film that’s about personal guilt and confusion when it comes to understanding war, which I thought was fascinating to see.
This is undoubtedly a very good film, however if I were to have one issue with it, it’s that the opening act isn’t always as grabbing as I felt it should be. Partly due to the early challenge of understanding the film’s unique structure, as well as because of the very slow, almost meditative pacing, it took me a little while longer to fully get into this film than I would have liked.
Overall, however, Waltz With Bashir is a very interesting, affecting and unique film experience. Its innovative structure and striking use of animation make for a very impressive watch, even though it takes a little while to really get going, so that’s why I’m giving this a 7.6.