Waltz with Bashir
Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary film that was produced in Israel. The film was directed and authored by Ari Folman who claims that it is more of an autobiography. The plot of the film mainly describes the experience of some of the Israeli soldiers who took part in the Lebanon War in the year 1982. The emotions are tense all through the film as extraordinary scenes of the soldier’s experiences are depicted. It is easy to recognize that the film is haunting based on the ways in which the producer has captured the scenes where the soldiers recall their past experience. At the same time, the end of the film is more tragic as Shatila and Sabra dies in a terrible way. The emotional force leaves the audience shocked making it hard for them to think that the film is an autobiography. However, there are several authors who have elaborated the trauma that most of the soldiers goes through after the war. Documentaries have also been produced to reveal more regarding the traumatic experiences of soldiers after they are from war. The themes of distorted memories and hallucinations are evident throughout the film and this is analyzed below.
Analysis of the major theme
At the beginning of the film, the first scene that the audience sees is the depiction of a hallucinatory articulacy. It is evident that someone is hallucinating regarding 26 dogs which are ferocious through the town squares and the city streets. The fury of the dogs makes them to scatter all the people who are walking on the roads while at the same time destroy everything that they find on their way such as café tables. It is evident that the dogs aim is to reach a particular apartment building and it seems that they are howling at someone whom the producer did not show his image properly. The silhouetted windows also make it hard for the audience to know the person whom the dogs are furious about. This leaves the audience is suspense as they contemplate whether the dogs will reach out to him through the silhouetted windows or he will manage to escape.
After minutes of suspense, the audiences are shown the identity of the person and this is where they realize that it is Boaz, an ex-soldier who was having the hallucinations. His hallucinations appears more like a nightmare and horror as it also leaves the audience terrified as they try to anticipate what happened to Boaz for him to have such bad thoughts. Boaz himself is terrified about his hallucinations and this causes him to summon Folman who is the producer and the director of the film to inform him about the things he was seeing and at the same time seek solace from them.
However, it is surprising that Folman is also suffering from psychological problems because after the war, it is evident that he developed some sort of amnesia that made him forget about everything that happened to him. The theme of distorted memory is clearly depicted through him as he tries hard to recall what happened to him while in Lebanon when they were fighting the Lebanon War. However, after Boaz who is friend and also a soldier whom they were with in Lebanon narrates to him regarding his hallucinations, Folman ended up having a vision which is more of hallucination regarding the day when Shatila and Sabra were killed (Adams 1). Though the memory is not clear, he is able to recall a little bit of the events that occurred on that particular day. He views himself as a soldier and is also able to see his fellow comrades who are all bathing by the seaside at night. They suddenly realize flares of lights that are coming from the city. However, because his memory is distorted, he cannot fully recall what happened after that which also forces him to seek help from a childhood friend whose advice to him is to seek those whom they were with in Beirut.
Through the help of his friends together with other soldiers who took part in the Lebanon war, Folman is able to recall more about the events about the war. He discovers that he was among the soldiers who served in the second ring and found themselves trapped at the Palestinian refugee camp where Shatila and Sabra were also killed (Adams 1). All these memories are tormenting not only to Folman but also the audience because it is evident that the soldiers went through horrific experiences that distorted their memories while others like Boaz were left with tormenting memories of the day as they continue hallucinating about it every day. It is easy for the audience to identify that the hallucinations did not give Boaz peace and appeared to be a mad individual who requires psychological treatment.
Folman managed to recall the cause of his distorted memory. According to him, he was only a teenage soldier who could not handle the war experience. After he had fired the flares that illuminated everyone who was in the Lebanon refugee camp, he felt fully response for the massacre. His memory was trying as much as possible to block the events that occurred that day thus the reason Folman ended up having distorted memories. While recalling what happened that day, the producer makes it appear as though he too was hallucinating about it because he appeared shaken and tormented by what he was recalling.
One thing that is evident is that the hallucinations and the distorted memories in the film as depicted more in the form of trauma experience which robbed these characters their peace and also their youthful memories. Boaz too feels tormented like Folman even though he did not kill anyone but felt that in one way or another he was also responsible for the deaths of many people. His hallucinations are tormenting him because he thinks that the people whom he killed who come in the forms of dogs are coming to revenge on him. This is the reason why the producer depicted the dogs to be angry with everyone and everything that they find on their way. The audience can interpret Boaz’s hallucinations to be contributed by gilt which Folman too was experiencing.
At the same time, Boaz and Folman fears are the main cause of their hallucinations and distorted memory. The producer relates real life events on the plot to try to explain further the main cause of the distorted memory that Folman was experiencing. According to his psychiatrist, Folman felt that he had turned out to be more like the Nazis people who killed without any form of mercy. He recalls the ways in which his parents who were Nazi prisoners at the Nazi death camp ended up being killed without any form of mercy (Adams 1). In this regard, Folman thought that what happened back in Lebanon was not an accident but because he was trying to revenge or be more like the Nazis who killed his parents. In order to forget about all these experiences, he blocked his mind from thinking about everything especially his childhood experience and even life before the death of his parents.
At the same time, Folman is hallucinating about naked soldiers who are walking on the Beirut beach while the city is being bombed by the flares that he was carrying. He is also hallucinating about a woman who is naked though it is evident that she is not just an ordinary woman but a giant size one and she is climbing on the water while cradling him (Adams 1). These scenes make the film to appear more like horror because they are not only traumatizing to the audience but also terrifying in nature. Folman and Boaz hallucinations are more of highly personalized images of things that happened to them. Though the memories appear unreliable in nature, their main subject makes them appear authentic and real in nature.
In conclusion, through the characters Boaz and Folman who is also the producer of the film, the theme of distorted memories and hallucinations are clearly evident in the film. It is because of the distorted memories that make Boaz to have all the hallucinations. At the same time, Folman’s distorted memories are contributed by guilt. However, through the help of a psychologist and friends, Folman managed to recall his childhood experience and also life in Lebanon, though he begins to have weird hallucinations which are more terrifying to the audience. Though Folman managed to recall his memory, his personal experience continues tormenting him which makes this film more complex regarding the horrible life of soldiers after war.
Adams, Beige. “Waltz with Bashir: The Fallibility Yet Persistence of Memory.” The documentary.org. Accessed 3 Dec, 2008.