One of the biggest surprises of this year’s Academy Awards was the fact that the awards season’s preordained foreign darling, Israel’s Waltz with Bashir, was denied the Oscar it so very much deserved. Its portrayal of Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon and the subsequent massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps is unflinching and sacrifices nothing in its depiction of the psychological effects rendered on Israel’s soldiers, many of whom were no older than 18 or 19 when they were sent on duty. Still, audiences should know one thing: this is a cartoon.
Make no mistake, being animated does not mean this is anything like the Disney movies of old. Waltz with Bashir is an introspective, riveting journey into the wartime experiences of Ari Folman, the film’s writer, director and producer. Twenty years after the events in Beirut, Folman, like many of his army compatriots, still suffers from dissociative memory and is unable to fully remember his time there. He travels from Israel to Holland and back again in order to interview his friends, desperately trying to piece together what happened.
This animated documentary pulls no punches in its representation of violence. While there is no way that Folman could have recreated the gore and destruction of his time there with actual humans, it is still shocking to see animated humans and animals killed in the most gruesome fashion. Notable is the fact that his friends and colleagues from the army voice themselves, and one forgets that he or she is watching animated figures on the screen.
While it may not have won the coveted Oscar, Waltz with Bashir is absolutely enthralling and remains one of the best movies in recent years. This stunning film should not be missed.
Rating: 4/4 stars
Waltz with Bashir is currently playing at AMC Sunset Place 24.