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One night in a bar, an old friend tells Ari Folman about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. The two conclude that this is somehow linked to their Israeli Army mission 20 years earlier in the first Lebanon war. Ari can't remember anything about that chapter in his life. He sets out to talk to those he knew at the time to learn about the events and his role in them. Slowly, his memory begins to build, through surreal images.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The most interesting aspects of this auto-biographical work in filmmaking terms is the storytelling style that Ari Folman has chosen. He has reconstituted the on-camera interviews in animated form, which enables him to show things like his dog nightmares as well as atrocities and violence in a way live action can not - at least not without greater resources. And even then, the resultant impact on audiences would be totally different; perhaps not as profound or as easy to process.

The form also provides cinematic interest, where talking heads may weary some viewers. But all this depends on the animation being of a certain quality and style, which happily it is. Although sparse, the animation is intent on making the characters tangible, and expressions are rendered with great care, using the eyes and mouth as primary tools. But the work also imparts character and the dreadful story of what happened takes shape with a sense of doom hanging over Ari - and us.

Although the film covers the salient points of the primary events that Ari's mind had suppressed - the 1982 massacre of thousands of Palestinians in two camps - Sabra and Shatila - by Lebanese Phalangist Christian militia - further research is recommended for anyone wishing to have a deeper understanding of the story. For those who experience Waltz With Bashir merely as film and at a distance from the history itself (geographically and/or politically) there is the satisfaction of excellent execution of an idea that brings together biography and history with a sense of cinema. All the more dynamic for the way it shames humanity for its very failure of humanity.

Review by Louise Keller:
Pensive and melancholy, this haunting and remarkable film from Ari Folman hones in on memory and how stimulating triggers unlock a traumatic war-experience previously blocked by the subconscious. Animated in a similar style to the rotoscope that Richard Linklater used in Waking Life, the visuals are striking with an emphasis on richly depicted sepia shades and the use of moving shadows. As we embark with Folman on his roadtrip, we become involved in his journey of discovery as he digs deeper and deeper into the recesses of his mind unlocking the door to his secrets.

In a stunning opening sequence, we become part of the nightmare belonging to Folman's friend. A vicious dog with piercing yellow eyes bounds towards us disarmingly. The ominous golden sky in part matches its eyes and a tense and pounding soundtrack compounds the tension and our anticipation. Soon, the dog is joined by another dog and eventually there is a pack of 26 ferocious beasts on the rampage. The friend explains to Folman over a drink on a wet and windy night not only why he knows the precise number of dogs, but the context of the dream during the Lebanon War. Suddenly Folman's own memories of a massacre in Beirut are triggered, but he is overwhelmed by a feeling of frustration for his inability not to be able to remember clearly. 'A human mechanism prevents us from entering dark places,' a friend tells him. 'Memory takes us where we need to go.' His own memories begin to take form as he talks to friends before experiencing a potent dream of his own.

Waltz With Bashir is a unique experience. Stylistically there is much by which we are stimulated and the experience becomes a vital and personal one. There are many lingering scenes, like the hallucination in which a gigantic, naked, beautiful and voluptuous woman, long hair flowing in the breeze, climbs onboard a vessel to rescue the terrified soldier puking over the side. Mesmerising cinema.

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(Israel/Germany/France, 2008)

Valse avec Bachir

CAST: Animated documentary

VOICES: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag, Ari Folman, Dror Harazi, Yehezkel Lazarov, Mickey Leon

PRODUCER: Ari Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner, Yael Nahlieli, Roman Paul

DIRECTOR: Ari Folman

SCRIPT: Ari Folman


EDITOR: Feller Nili

MUSIC: Max Richter

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Polonsky (Art Direction)

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2008

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