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Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ARI Folman’s astonishing Waltz With Bashir is undoubtedly one of the must-see documentaries of the year.

It’s a brave, often shocking but deeply personal examination of the impact of the First Lebanon War on the young soldiers involved and, in particular, the repercussions of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre that followed the assassination of Lebanon President Bashir Gemayel.

The film picks up during one night at a bar when an old friend tells director Ari about a recurring nightmare he suffers, in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. The two men subsequently conclude that there is a connection between the dreams and their Israeli Army mission during the first Lebanon war of the early ’80s.

However, Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing about the same period in his own life and – intrigued by this riddle – sets out to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world in a bid to provide the answers.

Folman’s film is made all the more remarkable because of the fact that it’s been done in animation. Rather than proving a distraction, it adds to the power of the movie, while embellishing some of the surreal dreams that take place as events are relayed from the perspective of the soldiers telling their stories.

As such, some of the imagery is breathtaking (a man adrift at sea on the body of a giant naked woman, the wreckage of bombed out 747s at an airport) while the depiction of war is as vivid and thought-provoking as the likes of Platoon and Apocalypse Now.

The interviews, too, are candid and expertly tap into the guilt and reasoning for what happened.

And then, as if to round it off with a final, memorable blow, Folman shows the massacre itself unfold, before switching to actual footage of its aftermath. It’s a sobering, harrowing end to a powerful experience that will stay in your head for a long time afterwards. Highly recommended.

In Israeli with subtitles

Certificate: 18
Running time: 87mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 30, 2009