Waltz with Bashir (Vals Im Bashir)
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In 1982, during the first Lebanon War, filmmaker Ari Folman served in the Israeli army. Twenty years later, when an old friend tells him about a recurring nightmare he’s had about the 26 dogs that he was forced to kill during the war, Folman realizes that he remembers nothing about the war—or his involvement in it.

Later that night, Folman has his first flashback—a short, dreamlike vision about the night of the massacre that took place in the Palestinian refugee camps. Unsure whether the vision is real or just imagined, Folman begins to seek out friends and other former soldiers, in hopes of regaining the memories he’s blocked for two decades.

The Oscar-nominated foreign film, Waltz with Bashir, is a haunting film about the horrors of war, told using the unexpected medium of animation. Without the heavily stylized, surreal graphics, the film would be another war documentary, complete with interviews and recollections. But the animation allows Folman to go deeper into the experience—and to take viewers inside the often dream-like memories of his subjects. And that’s what makes the film stand out from other war movies; that’s what brings those talking heads—and their stories—to life.

Since, in 1982, I was too young to follow wars on the other side of the world, I knew very little about the story as I walked into the theater—and, unfortunately, my general lack of knowledge of the situation did, at times, make the film difficult for me to follow. I often found myself getting lost in the details, trying to piece together memories that—unlike Folman’s—were never mine to begin with.

Still, as long as you’re able to get beyond the details, Waltz with Bashir offers something deeper—something more universal—than the average war movie. In animating his interviewees’ memories, Folman takes viewers deeper into the horrors of war, into those lingering nightmares. Even the simpler moments—like a memory involving dying horses—can be surprisingly vivid and powerful. You’ll watch as beaches become warzones and as soldiers return to a world that seems entirely unaffected by the war that has altered their lives forever. You’ll watch as the soldiers’ mundane daily routine turns to heavy combat in a matter of seconds. You’ll hear about the decisions they made—and the orders they followed—and how their actions have stayed with them ever since. And, at the same time, you’ll watch as those handing out the orders sit back and enjoy their daily dose of porn as they casually send their troops into harm’s way.

Waltz with Bashir is definitely not a feel-good film. It’s not an exhilarating or enjoyable film—so it’s not something you’ll want to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. It’s an agonizingly heavy film, but it’s often powerful and poignant. After watching it, you—like these soldiers—will be left with images that you’ll never be able to forget.

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