Movie Review: Waltz for Bashir

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
This is the first of four programs on a special Oscar watch of nominated films at the Landmark Theaters.
Waltz for Bashir is an Israeli animated film directed by Ari Folman on the horrors of war. It concerns the June 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians by Lebanese Phalangists in the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. The film, however, can be seen as a metaphor of the mind set of war. It is nominated for best foreign language film at this years Oscars and is surely the strongest contender. Now more than ever do we need to be reminded of what war is really about. Even though the issues that people fight for with righteous indignation will always exist, the way we choose to express them can and must change. How timely that the Obama administration represents a paradigm shift where diplomacy will constitute the strongest tool in tempering conflict.
Waltz for Bashir documents par excellence the rituals involved in teaching young men 18 years and younger how to kill in war. The bombing of property, the murder of innocent men, women and children, and the execution of the enemy including the execution of other young men are part of this training. The film shows the process involved in the erosion of human values in the minds of young men who often
have no clue what they are doing. In the daily routines of military preparedness, young soldiers are on the beach swimming, or frying an egg on the roof of a jeep. The next minute one of them stoops over from a clean shot from a stray bullet that tears through his young flesh while others fire blindly at the enemy. Folman shows us that war is a macho maneuver with a downward spiral. After years of an anti life career, older military leaders prepare military exercises while watching porn films. Nowhere is it more clear that war targets innocent lives - women, the disabled, old and therefore useless men, and children. When Lebanese president elect Bashir Gemayel was assassinated these are the people that the Lebanese Phalangists took revenge on when they were unable to find members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Israeli soldiers watched it happen. As young soldier s, memories are repressed in order to cope with the harsh realities of war , and years later many of the men including director Folman
who was 19 at the time suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. One example from the film is a young soldier who dreams of a woman who swims to his boat before it is torpedoed and rescues him.
The animation vividly brings back the history of this war in ways that a traditional documentary cannot. The stuffiness of artistically posed medium shots of a seated person giving information side by side with documentary material is avoided. The testimony of seven veterans from the 1982 massacre is there but in the form of dialogue and flashbacks in animation where memories are visually brought to life. As animated films go this is not a feel good cartoon and there are rough edges from the very beginning.
A single use of documentary footage from 1982 serves as a chilling testimony, otherwise every frame is hand painted from scratch.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan.
More Information:
Waltz for Bashir
Israel , Germany , France , USA , Finland , Switzerland , Belgium , Australia - 2008