Sat upright in bed on a Saturday evening after a curry on Bricklane, Masterchef 2011 burning its irritating dross into my mind like acid: perhaps this isn’t the best setting to try and write another review. Screw it! I’ll give it a go, and there is a strong irony between a group of ten or so people who think that fine dining is worth shedding tears over; and A Waltz with Bashir which is about the Israeli war in Lebanon, the final shot being a dead girl’s face sticking out of a pile of rubble which used to be her house. I very rarely cry; but I did well-up a touch when I saw real footage of the Israeli massacre that punctuates the end of this film like a great big coffin shaped exclamation mark.
Yet I don’t think this film works for everyone. Rachel could barely watch it. “I don’t watch animation”, she said. Granted, I struggled for a while to feel empathy for cell shaded characters and I think this is the “conflict point”. The animation is a clear and oppressive choice which makes or breaks A Waltz with Bashir and to be honest, I’m not sure it was the right choice. Nevertheless, for an end scene I haven’t seen anything for a time which was this powerful. So at the very least I think A Waltz with Bashir is worth watching until the credits roll up.
The film follows an Israeli ex-soldier who has a touch of amnesia in regards to the Israeli war with Lebanon in 1982. Amnesia is never the most compelling reason for any protagonist to go on a journey because it’s a fairly convenient reason for someone to set off on a journey of self-discovery. Not a great start, but at this point you’re probably just trying to get your head around the animation. Not to say it’s difficult, but we are conditioned, and it doesn’t fit to our conditioning.
As you would expect, the rest of the film is a critique of the war, its cruelty, its beauty and it’s comedy. As each event of the war is put together in the protagonists mind, we get a young-man’s perspective and it is almost as if the animation represents his way of thinking. We see a soldier playing an AK-47 like a guitar and a soldier doing ballet as he is shot at from the roof tops of Beirut for example. The whole film has a fantasy element to it and the animation upholds the illusion. It is not until the final scene – the climax and the reason why the protagonist has repressed memories – that the cloud of unreality is lifted, and the audience can see, with clarity, the horror of the war. The animation in A Waltz for Bashir obscures the horrors of war, and just when you least expect it, reality hits. This is why I love A Waltz with Bashir! Not because it’s a tremendous story, because it isn’t, nor because it’s something I’ve never seen before, it’s not: but it is a film which will stay with me for a long time. Why else do we watch films, other than to carry them with us through our everyday humdrum existence? Films give the world some animation.