Waltz With Bashir- Breaking New Dramatic Ground in Animated Film
Animation in film is too often used as an excuse to replace intelligently written dialogue and stories with broad comedy and goofy images. We sometimes forget that animation’s key contribution to the world of artistic expression is its ability to heighten reality, to take us into a world that otherwise would not be possible for us to see. Ari Folman uses animation to take us into the mind of the battle-scarred minds of Israeli soldiers in Waltz With Bashir, and we immediately can see this is no gimmick. There is a reality that drawings capture that cameras cannot. There is simultaneously a slight disconnect from real images that make the subjects of this animated documentary more inclined to agree to partake—if only they knew how the drawings turn out to be far more horrifying.
Animated documentary? You read correctly. It begins with the filmmaker, Ari Folman, discussing with a friend a recurring nightmare he has that he traces back to his days in the Israeli army. Finally, one image sticks in his head that he simply cannot remember to save his life, so he finds many old friends and interviews them all, trying to figure out where all he has been and how this image could possibly have originated. In the midst of all this, we hear stories from these men and watch them re-enacted in hallucinogenic animated sequences. It’s not merely the flashbacks that are animated…the filmmaker draws the people he is interviewing too.
What could have simply devolved into a pretentious film exercise instead soars. The animation even away from dream sequences works– The whole thing is like a dream to most of the people who recall the occurrences. Even the interviews and talking head moments are for the interviewer still part of his own fog surrounding the massacre that he’s trying to see through. There’s one moment where one man he interviews says he does not wish to be filmed, but the interviewer can draw a picture of him if he’d like– is it truly easier to disassociate yourself from reliving a moment if there’s no record of the actual visual interview? The animation in this film represents that heightened reality, the dreamlike state of post traumatic memory haze, but it also represents the ability to remove one’s self from the reality– almost the opposite of the heightened reality of the flashbacks. Combine this fascinating concept with some incredibly compelling stories and phenomenal animation—between Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda, what a fantastic year for animation!— this movie is one every film lover should seek out despite its limited distribution.