I’ve just seen remarkable animated movie,Waltz With Bashir by Israeli director Ari Folman which is rightly making waves and collecting trophies across the film festival circuit.
As a kind of moving graphic novel, it highlights the absurd and surrealistic nature of the recent bloody conflicts in Beirut and The Lebanon although, in interviews, Folman has been at pains to point out that this is not simply a war movie.
Rather it is a study in the psychological impact on those who find themselves taking part in atrocities, most of the time with little awareness of who they are fighting against and why. In this way it has literary parallels with works like Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse 5.
The director himself is depicted interviewing actual participants and psychologists in an effort to shed light on the black hole in his memory bank. Gradually he pieces together that which his mind has blocked out, the witnessing of his part in the horror of Sabra and Shatila massacre.
The soundtrack is perfectly pitched with an evocative and melancholy score by Max Richter and includes a wonderful sequence using PIL’s ‘This Is Not Love Song’.
If this was a conventional movie, the battle scenes would be practically impossible to watch – the brief but shocking news footage at the end of the movie tells us all we need to know of the reality.
However noble their intentions, war movies tend to have a strong voyeuristic element and convention demands that we look either for heroes and a sense of hope amongst the carnage and destruction. You will find neither in this sobering film.
Instead the movie works more as an allegory to warfare. In that sense it would be inappropriate to see it as an overtly political film. Folman has stated that the only conclusion he wants people to draw is that ” war is stupid, it’s a waste”.
It is a measure of this film’s power that this message does not seem like a platitude.