Rated R for some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content, 87 minutes, in Hebrew, German and Lebanese Arabic with English subtitles
Animated "Bashir" is disturbing but mesmerizing
"Waltz with Bashir" is animated but don't go expecting anything lighthearted in the way of "WALL-E" or "Kung-Fu Panda." Bashir is from Israeli director Ari Folman and is Israel's entry
for the Foreign Language Film Academy Award, and is a remarkable, tour-de-force that deals with Israel's involvment in the Lebanon War in the 1980's. "Bashir" is part of a rare genre: animated documentary, that is disturbing, mesmerizing and provocative; its comments on the consequences of war may leave some shaken but will certainly stay with you long after you leave the theater.
One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari (who plays himself) in the about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there's a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early eighties. Ari is surprised that he's now unable to remember a thing about that period of his life. Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal images.
"Bashir" is a remarkable effort in that it captures the effects of war in animation combined with elements (interviews) of a documentary. Had such films as "Apocalypse Now" or "Platoon" been made as animated films, it would've captured some of the similar themes that Bashir plays to in surreal fashion. "Bashir" is a very adult animated film that looks at many aspects of war, in particular the psychological effects, and why some participants in war have obviously blocked those memories, while those memories seem to haunt others.
"Bashir's" stunning, realistic visuals capture many of these effects, and while it doesn't delve deeply into some of the effects, it certainly makes its anti-war comments known. Whether it's those frightening dogs that are seen prominently throughout or the battle scenes, "Bashir" leaves some indellible, thought-provoking images of the true costs of war. The unique color schemes, much of are golden or washed-out gray, make it appear as if a graphic comic book were coming to life. Folman's choice to use animation instead of actual images is indeed a risk but a nice one; it allows the director to do more creatively but also could embellish some factual aspects.
"Bashir" is based on Folman's own experiences in the war and is seemingly a unique labor of love that took 4 years, several million dollars and is an international co-production involving Israel, Germany and France. While a stunning achievement, the depressing, downbeat subject matter isn't for everyone but "Bashir" will certainly stay with you long after its brief running time. Already a winner of numerous awards (including a recent Golden Globe), "Waltz with Bashir" is a nominated for Best Foreign Language Academy Award and is a must-see for those that enjoy war films.