“I hope that when they grow up, these babies will watch this film and will see it just as an ancient video game that has nothing to do with reality.” Ari Folman used that line in more than one Awards acceptance speech this season but didn’t get a chance to use it at the Oscars as his film lost to DEPARTURES last Sunday. Still, it’s quite an achievement for his film to be the first animated film to receive a nomination for an Academy Award or a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Utilizing flash animation with old school drawings and 3D technologies, not the rotoscoping that formed recent works such as Richard Linklater’s A SCANNER DARKLY and Brett Morgan’s CHICAGO 10, Folman tells the complex nightmarish story of his experience as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. Later, as a stoical Isreali film maker, he consults with former army friends about reoccurring visions of a massacre he faced while having intense difficulty remembering what really went down. Half documentary; half surreal drama, it was often tough sitting through as the animation is often stiff and the pace is glacial but the textures and imagery linger in an astoundingly affecting manner.
Honestly, I was not as moved as I would’ve liked while viewing a late night screening after a long day with the bleak battered terrain stretching endlessly and the sickly looking characters’ detachment battling my compassion. However, the next morning after a night of processing these elements, so dry and unpleasant at first, now have force and urgency that requires deeper inspection. There are many dead bodies and much blood on display and it’s hard to separate from likewise videogame aesthetics, like Folman wishes they could be forever restricted to, yet a preserving passion encloses it all. As fluidity challenged as it is, WALTZ WITH BASHIR has a penetrating soul to it even if I would be hard pressed to call it entertainment. What I would call it is one of the most challenging cartoons that you’re ever likely to meet.