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.
Click here to read the rest of Chris Wisniewski’s review of Waltz with Bashir.
And earlier: Michael Koresky on Waltz with Bashir