Waltz with Bashir
Imagine watching an animated film that is crafted so brilliantly that you can feel every horrific nightmare and trauma associated with a war to the bone. Waltz with Bashir, is one such film that takes you deep inside the mind of a teenage Israeli soldier who had barely begun to shave. If you fancy animated features, take a break from the seven dwarfs and the little mermaid and tune in to learn history the animated way. Strap up, sit back and pretend you’re an Israeli soldier ready to take on the enemy, except you don’t know the why, how and when. The 1982 Lebanon War through the eyes of Ari Forman; an Israeli veteran, here’s presenting Waltz with Bashir.
Written and directed by Ari Folman, the film is Folman’s autobiography, where he narrates his journey back in time to recollect memories from the 1982 massacre by interviewing the soldiers who had served alongside him during the war. Waltz with Bashir frames war as a meaningless exercise that holds no real relevance to its perpetrators, including Folman. Folman’s amnesia shows an interesting depiction of how injustice and violence during wartime is so easily forgotten and accepted.
The title originates from a scene out of the movie in which one of Folman’s interviewees does a crazy Waltz number on a Beirut street decked with posters of Bashir Gemayel, dancing with a blazing machine gun amidst heavy warfare. The movie, in a sense is like a slideshow of nightmares experienced by Folman and his comrade vets, each trying to deal with his own set of nightmarish demons. Folman however, sustained psyche wounds, where he has lost all memory from his time spent in the war. He does recall his presence when the terrible massacre of Palestinian civilians occurred at the Sabre and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, but he is unable to recall his precise actions at that time. Through his interviewees; Israeli vets the movie takes the viewers through a stream of flashbacks into the aftermath of the massacre, which Folman often recalls, where he sees a blurry vision of horrified women and children grieving the death of those mass murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
News of the massacre shocked the entire world and a spontaneous protest of hundreds of thousands Israelis forced the Israeli government to create an official inquiry committee to investigate the liability of Israeli political and military authorities. Minister of Defense Arik Sharon was found guilty by the committee for not having done enough to stop the horror once he became aware of the massacre. He was dismissed of his duties and prohibited from serving as Minister of Defense for another term. This did not stop him from being appointed Prime Minister of Israel twenty years later (The 1982 Lebanon War, Waltz with Bashir).
Waltz with Bashir is a disturbingly realistic emotional powerhouse, which signifies the mental trauma and emotional damage associated with warfare right from the antagonist’s shoes. Critics have argued that it’s a tactic to draw attention towards the Israeli soldiers away from the real victims of the war; the Palestinian refugees, however I feel it carves a bigger picture. It is very rare that we hear the story from the other end, however Waltz with Bashir fills this missing gap and portrays the real end result of a war; neither side wins.
War leaves every actor scarred. The Palestinians did get murdered brutally, but at least they’re resting in peace; the Israeli soldiers on the other hand have to live every moment of the horrifying war over and over again. Credit goes to Folman for bringing this issue to light and testifying to the absurdness of Israel’s role in the 1982 Lebanon War.