When I read the movie description in the International Film Festival Guide, I expected a fluffy movie about a soldier’s qualms about what he had done while serving in the army and finding ways to reconcile with his past. For example: I killed people while serving in the army, but now I sponsor a hungry child in Nigeria … so I am ok.
Waltz With Bashir blew any and all expectations I had.
Waltz With Bashir is mostly animated. However the style of animation is very distinctive and like nothing I had seen before. In an eerie way, I felt that the animation was more real than reality. More real than had it been shot in documentary style. Because it is animated, the director has total control of colors, shades and speeds of movements. Each frame is infused with a certain emotion. Hence you were not only seeing the events but also seeing them through the lens of director’s feelings about them. There were certain sequences that gave me such an eerie feeling, I felt as if I wasn’t only seeing the events, but also feeling the main character’s emotion while viewing the events. As if I was walking in his shoes. Things that particularly drew my attention was the color and movement of the waves of the sea, there was a silky quality to the water, almost surreal. Another thing that I noticed in particular was a scene when he is talking with his friend the psychologist, yet there is a child playing in the background. Small details such as that added visual richness to the movie.
The director tells his own story. 20 years after serving in the Israeli army fighting in Lebanon, he realizes that he has no memories whatsoever about his time in the army. He decides to go meet previous comrades, people that served in his regiment, to try to reconstruct his time in the army. Memories start to bubble forward in his mind. The movie oscillates between the past and present, dreams, fantasies and reality. As Waltz With Bashir progresses, realizations of increasing intensity emerge from the fog, until the ultimate realization at the very end of the movie. You leave Waltz With Bashir understanding fully why his mind had blocked his memories for such a long time.
Besides being impressed with the artistic quality of Waltz With Bashir, I was impressed with the bravery of the director to decide to make a movie about himself with brutal honesty. This is man who is telling us about his participation in most inhuman acts, with no excuses, no pretenses just the truth. How brave it is to be able to look at yourself so objectively. Waltz With Bashir does not strive for a happy ending or any fake feel good effect. No feeding a hungry child in Africa. Only his shame and guilt. Even when he is handed the usual excuses, the director makes sure to reject them as just excuses.
I left the movie theater heavy hearted and little dizzy with all sorts of thoughts inside my head.
Waltz with Bashir, is a creative and mind blowing movie in both style and substance.