DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Waltz With Bashir, Blu-ray (2009)

Rather than being about the specific war or even war in general, the film concentrates on war’s reprehensible and traumatic effect on people.

Published on July 15, 2009

Waltz With Bashir, Blu-ray (2009)

Waltz With Bashir, Blu-ray (2009)

Director: Ari Folman
Studio: Razor Film/Sony Pictures Classics 30039 [Release date: June 23, 09]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color, 1080p HD
Audio: Hebrew or English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (DD stereo on extras)
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Extras: Commentary by Director Folman, “Surreal Soldiers: Making Waltz With Bashir,” Q & A with Director, Building the Scenes, Animatics, BD Live, Previews
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: ****

I don’t know if there has previously been a documentary that is mostly animated such as this one. Waltz With Bashir is a very artistically done, yet in-your-face type of anti-war film.  Its main theme is not really the horrors of war but the surreal absurdities and insanity of it – something also touched on in Apocalypse Now. The film was ignored by the Oscar committee but won the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2008. It has also engendered a good deal of controversy from some quarters who accuse Folman of creating disturbing artistic propaganda in the Israeli film – blaming the Christian Phalangists for the massacres which are at the center of the film, while the Israeli occupying forces who had the power to stop it did not at first do so.

The animation approach may remind viewers of the film Waking Life, except that the body movements are not as realistic since the animation didn’t involve rotoscoping techniques. However, the voices on the soundtrack are often the actual recorded voices of former Israeli soldiers who participated in the 1982 Lebanon War. It opens with one of the former soldiers who has a frightening recurring nightmare of being besieged by 26 snarling dogs who represent the 26 dogs he was ordered to shoot when their platoon entered a Lebanese village at night (because they gave away the presence of the troops by barking). Filmmaker Folman talks with his nightmare-ridden friend and finds that he himself cannot remember much about the war. He ends up traveling all over Europe to talk to former fellow soldiers about their remembrance of the war.  (For the first time I selected the dubbed English soundtrack and it seemed to work fine, but you may want to retain the English subtitles as well for mumbled dialog, which it allows you to do.)

Many of the stories are dreams (like Waking Life), and they are strikingly illustrated, along with evocative music. Rather than being about the specific war or even war in general, the film concentrates on war’s reprehensible and traumatic effect on people. It’s not which side was right or wrong, but the horrible effect of it on people. It shows how innocent people were massacred because nobody seemed to care.  The short live action section comes at the end of the film, showing the atrocities of the massacres in actuality footage. Bashir, by the way, was the leader of the Phalangists and their massacres were revenge for his assassination. The film’s title comes from a central scene in which one of the Israeli soldier’s grabs a machine gun from a fellow soldier, runs out into a dangerous street where the platoon is seeking protection from unseen sniper fire, and seems to dance a frantic little waltz while shooting up the giant Bashir posters all around him.

 - John Sunier




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