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Waltz With Bashir (2008)

July 14, 2009

8/10 Reasons I Wish I Had Paid More Attention In World History Class

Man, war is fucking nuts.

Waltz With Bashir is about one man’s struggle to come to terms with his role as a 19-year-old Isreali soldier during the Lebanon War through the testimonials of others he fought alongside with and through a series of re-occurring flashbacks that begin appearing to him after having been repressed for over twenty years.

I was never the student who got “A”s in History class, but after seeing this movie I feel like I probably should have known that there was a Lebanon War.

Hopefully I’m not the only twenty-something American in that boat.

I did know that the Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting for as long as I can remember, but there’s a big difference between reading about a foreign war in the headlines of the paper and seeing actual footage of unarmed people being massacred in the streets. A harrowing and eye-opening experience to say the least.

It’s hard to classify what kind of genre Waltz With Bashir falls into. Combining actual testimonials of soldiers that were on the front lines with a script from the filmmaker and protagonist, Ari Folman, that drives at uncovering what, in his own mind, is fact and what is fiction, it’s fascinating from an onlooker’s standpoint to have everything clarified at the same pace as an actual Israeli soldier does.

It’s also animated, and beautifully at that, but this is not some Disney shit. This is a movie about war, and the animation only adds to the sense of how crazy it all is. Thinking back on a lot of the sequences from the movie, in particular the dream sequences, it’s hard to imagine them being acted out with real people.

Filming real people would probably just take away from the sense of confusion that’s overwhelmingly prevalent, that even while in war, the line between real and imaginary is easily blurred.

Maybe I’m yanking my own chain, but I feel like my own ambivalence towards the subject material made the movie as a whole that much more profound. So if you’re like me and was doodling in your notebook when the history teacher was telling everyone about Bashir Gemayel, you might just be at an advantage.

Waltz With Bashir is a very unique and gripping take on war that’s something to be admired from a filmmaking standpoint and as a vehicle meant to shed light on an ongoing, and brutal, conflict. And it’s about time more war movies started focusing on P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). That shit is no joke.

SIDE NOTE: This movie reminded me a lot of fantastic book a I re-read this past Summer by Tim O’Brien called The Things They Carried. Great novel of sorts about O’Brien’s experience in Vietnam that covers a number of the same issues that Folman deals with in this movie. Even if you haven’t seen Bashir, highly recommend this book regardless.

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