Before this film was released, six years ago, an ‘animated documentary’ was considered an oxymoron. Whereas animation was associated mostly with little children or underground artists, documentaries were something dead-serious. How is it possible, people would ask skeptically, to combine such different genres?
With his film, Ari Folman proves it is not only possible but also ground-breaking. The director couldn’t think of a better way of expression. It forces the viewer to step out of his schematic ways of comparing and labeling. Waltz with Bashir simply can’t be watched as just-another-movie-for-a-Friday-night. Folman has an important story to tell.
The plot is relatively simple. A veteran of the Lebaneon War can’t recall anything of his traumatic experience. All he can remember is one hazy post-massacre vision. Driven by a strong desire to discover what really happened in the Palestinian refugee camp, he decides to regain his memory. He visits and interviews all his ex-brothers in arms, step by step reconstructing the truth. The way he does it takes war to the most personal, intimate level. Political events are just a background for psychological dramas and moral dilemmas. This attitude is far from judging: you don’t get to see two opposite sides of the conflict, clearly divided by the “good guys/bad guys” mark. All that Walz with Bashir is about is the human tragedy. But as you know, having watched zillions of war movies, people tend to become desensitized to sufferings. And this is why animation plays a key role here. The subtle, stencil-like drawings transform the ruthless reality into something more of a nightmare. The whole movie seems somewhat surreal, smoothly blending brutal images with dream-like scenes. The viewer - encouraged by the strikingly calm voices of the interviewed - steps into the head of a soldier, taking over his fears and desires. One can always ignore the dates, names and death toll but it is way harder to escape the feelings.
What is also worth noting is that Ari Folman's approach to the war is quite unusual for the Israelis. They really pride themselves on the efficiency and mightiness of IDF (Isreal Defence Forces) that have a great authority over there. Remember that serving the Israeli army is compulsory, three years for men and two for women. However, as far as I noticed, most of the young people consider it a fun and useful experience rather then a tough duty. As Israel's relations with all the neighboring states are constantly tense, IDF are treated by the society as real life-savers. Now you can imagine that Folman, making a movie about all the fear and pain related to the 'heroic act of protecting Israel's security', was quite a taboo-breaker in his homeland.