Saturday, April 11, 2009

WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Ari Folman, 2008, Israel) A soldier dances through the mind-field of his past to exhume long dead memories as canine ghosts haunt him every night, barking their feral accusations into the deep recesses of his psyche. Writer/Director Ari Folman is that soldier and the film is a documentary of his search for truth obscured by the miasma of time and guilt, his attempt to remember what he actually experienced during the 1982 Lebanon War. This beautiful animation lends a dream-like ethereal quality to Folman’s quest as he stumbles upon repressed memories that can only be coped with when human life is rendered in a cartoon world. Folman documents his meetings with friends and companions who fought beside him during the conflict and he pieces his jigsaw past together into a violent and coherent picture…and discovers that the truth, no matter how horrible, must be preserved and is the only way to keep from descending into insanity. The film is not a polemic (as some believe) concerning Israel’s responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, though Folman remembers his commanders recognizing the genocide and standing idle while it was happening: Folman paints this violent portrait with broader brushstrokes, condemning all war, that we all carry this moral burden for allowing inhumane atrocities. He is focused upon his own experience as one tiny soldier in a monstrous conflict and the effect of war upon the psyche of the individual: in one sublime moment, he projects himself upon the Nazi grunts ordered to commit unbearable murders against his own people during WWII because they were only young men (like Folman) caught in a web of madness. As Folman begins to understand the nightmares, his waking mind and subconscious nexus reveal the horrific reality: in a shocking edit, the animation cuts to live video of the actual massacre, the suffering no longer confined to cells of animation…but escape into a worldwide consciousness. (A)

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