Waltz With Bashir is an astonishing piece of work – it’s a dreamy reconstruction of one man’s recollection of his experiences in the Israeli military during the Lebanon War in the early 1980s. The director, Ari Folman, wrote for the original Israeli incarnation of the TV show “In Treatment” and that background in pop psychology shows – this is a searching and introspective story. It’s not entirely fictional, but it’s certainly not a documentary either. The harsh world in wartime and the realm of dreams swirl together and co-mingle.
Necessarily then, Waltz With Bashir is an animated movie. The choice is crucial to the movie’s effect: It’s colorful and mesmerizing and upsetting. It is NOT rotoscoped. All of the animation is meticulously choreographed and depicted, under the art direction of David Polonsky with contributions from, among others, two artists whose work I adore, the brothers Tomer Hanuka and Asaf Hanuka. (If you’ve picked up a newspaper or a magazine in the past decade, you know their work.) On a visual basis alone, Waltz With Bashir is a necessity. Combined with the emotionally conflicted and self-exploratory storytelling method which Folman employs, Waltz With Bashir is a film unlike any other. It’s not an exaggeration to pronounce that I have very rarely seen a medium so well matched to its message.
I can’t exactly say that I loved this movie – it left me feeling more than a little anguished and sad. But it is very clearly a work of cinematic art that has made some valuable observations about the real world, and as such, I sincerely recommend that it be seen by as many people as possible as soon as possible. See it with your deepest friend.