Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Unforgettable: Ari Folman's "Waltz with Bashir"

By Chris Wisniewski | Indiewire December 22, 2008 at 3:23AM

[An indieWIRE review from Reverse Shot.]
0

[An indieWIRE review from Reverse Shot.]

Early in "Waltz with Bashir," director Ari Folman has an onscreen conversation with a friend about a psychological experiment. In the study, subjects were given photographs of themselves from their childhoods, but one picture was digitally manipulated to depict an event that had never happened. Even though the image was fabricated, half of the subjects in the study claimed to remember the event upon studying the picture. Memory, after all, is pliable ("It's alive," Ari's friend tells him), but whatever we may know about the manipulation of images, we're still inclined to believe that a photograph can't lie. This idea has preoccupied theorists and filmmakers from Andre Bazin to Errol Morris as they've puzzled over cinema's relationship to "the real"; for Folman, the tension between memory and photographic evidence is a point of departure.

Memory, as a reflection, distortion, and omission of historical truth, is very much in question in "Waltz with Bashir," a documentary that reconstructs Folman's experience as a soldier during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent massacre of over 800 Palestinian refugees in Beirut by Lebanese Christian Phalangists. In the film, Folman realizes that he has no recollection of that time, and begins to interview the other soldiers he served with, along with therapists and trauma experts, to piece together his lost time, the absent memory of this horrific historical incident.

The photographic image -- and the illusion of certainty that it suggests -- does not suit the ambiguous terrain "Waltz with Bashir" surveys, and so it makes sense that Folman has instead used a combination of Flash, traditional, and 3D animation, rather than stock footage, filmed interviews, or live-action reenactments, to visualize his conversations and reimagine his forgotten experience. Visually and generically, the result is quite unlike any film I have seen; it's as though Folman is creating a new form, or at least a new subgenre: the animated documentary. Still, as revelatory as it often is, it's also impossible after the fact to imagine a more appropriate aesthetic approach for the film's subject. Thoughtful, wrenching, and uniquely beautiful, "Waltz with Bashir" more than lives up to the hype that's been building since its Cannes debut in May.

"Waltz with Bashir" moves at a breathless pace from one evocative image to the next: ferocious, rabid dogs race down city streets; nude soldiers emerge from the sea, rifles in hand; a man drifts along the water, buoyed by a large nude woman who cradles him like a massive life raft; a soldier dances in a street through a hail of bullets, accompanied by a Chopin waltz. Folman's gorgeous imagery, often plucked from recollections of dreams, runs the risk of aestheticizing historical tragedy, mining a massacre for pretty pictures set to a self-consciously eclectic soundtrack. In execution, though, his technique ends up foregrounding the subjectivity of his imagery.

Many of his reenactments are thrillingly mounted -- in one of the most memorable, a soldier recalls a commanding officer being shot and killed in a tank, and his subsequent, horrifying dash along a beach as his fellow soldiers are picked off, one by one. Though this scene could play as an action sequence, the animation keeps us at a remove, constantly aware that what we're watching is mediated by time, perception, and point-of-view, one filmmaker's take on another man's experience as relayed in an interview. The entire film is structured by such interviews, each of which allows Folman to uncover a certain version of the massacre by layering one personal experience on top of another. The film is essentially an investigative documentary that plunges the depths of conscience and consciousness in its search for something resembling truth.

Folman may not get to an answer by the end of "Waltz with Bashir." But if truth is elusive, history is sometimes more certain. He closes the film with archival footage of the massacre, which is all the more bracing after the nearly 80 minutes of animated footage that precedes it. Some pictures don't lie. "Waltz with Bashir" leaves it to us to weigh recollection and evidence, to grapple with undeniable atrocity and moral uncertainty. Because, sometimes, forgetting simply isn't an option.

[Chris Wisniewski is a Reverse Shot staff writer and a regular contributor to Publishers Weekly.]

This article is related to: DVD and VOD






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More