03 October, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
The effects of combat take on an added dimension, caught somewhere between nightmares and surrealism, in the celebrated Israeli animated epic Waltz With Bashir. The film, which had its US Premiere at the New York Film Festival last night, brings the viewer in the furtive and fervent imagination of director Ari Folman.
Beginning with the startling image of wild dogs running straight towards the camera, the film exists between psychological turmoil and existential distress as it explores the psyche of soldiers forced to witness (and commit) crimes against humanity. By adding the expressionistic art of animation, the film is able to penetrate deep into an amnesia of facts, a blurring of morality and an urge to uncover the truth that is both universal and incredibly personal.
"I wanted to explore the troubling memories that I have carried with me for almost 25years", director Ari Folman said at the press conference following the press screening of the film yesterday. "For my friends and myself, these were dark memories that continue to haunt us. Doing the film allowed me and them to try and describe how this experience has marked our lives."
The film blends anime technique with classic documentary approaches (talking head interviews, voice over narration, up-close-and-personal camera technique) to offer a bold visual statement that is also an involving anti-war chronicle of an element of the Israel/Palestine conflict. As its animated characters dig deep to reveal the pain and disillusionment of war, audiences will find themselves able to place themselves in this no man's land of modern warfare in a way that a standard live action documentary could never do.
The animation is used by Folman to illuminate what might be called his subjects’ historical imagination — in which actual lived experience combines with fears, fantasies and justifications. This "fog of war", even after 25 years, keeps the men (no women) interviewed in kind of paralytic purgatory, where they are both afraid to remember the past and afraid of moving forward into the future.
The film was wildly received at its world premiere in Cannes and is a prime example of an international co-production (between Israel, France and Germany) where each partner brings their own special gifts to the project. The film will open theatrically via specialty distributor Sony Pictures Classics, the arthouse divsion of Sony Pictures, on December 26, to capitalize on Oscar/Golden Globe season. SPC successfully distributed last year's animation success Persepolis, making it both a box office winner and also a serious Oscar contender.
To get more information on the film and view a trailer, log on to: http://www.sonyclassics.com/waltzwithbashir/