War Film ‘Waltz With Bashir’ Dances to Disc27 Apr, 2009 By: Billy Gil
Best foreign-language film Academy Award nominee Waltz With Bashir is not your typical war memoir. Most such films do not begin with the retelling of a recurring vivid dream in which the protagonist is chased by exactly
26 ferocious dogs. And the dream is animated, as is the rest of the film.
The movie comes to DVD ($28.96) and Blu-ray Disc ($39.95) June 23 (prebook May 21) from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Indeed, Waltz With Bashir is a unique film, a concoction of documentary, memoir, narrative, animation, fantasy and reality. It is a film by Ari Folman, who served in the Israeli army during its invasion of South Lebanon in 1982 and had trouble remembering significant portions of his service. He could not recall where he was during the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, during which an estimated 3,000 refugees were killed by Phalangist Christian militia allegedly in retaliation for the murder of Bashir Gemayel, the newly appointed president of Lebanon, ally of Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon, and revered and charismatic leader to the Christian militia.
“War is a lot of things, but I think more than anything else, it’s like a very bad acid trip,” Folman explained. “I wanted to imitate that in Waltz With Bashir. It … explodes in your brain, and you never know where it’s going to end up.”
The film follows Folman’s spiritual and psychological journey to reclaim his lost memories. As Folman talks to friends and former soldiers, bits and pieces of the past return — some funny, some exciting, some horrific.
“After eight sessions [with a therapist], I realized it was the first time for me ever to hear my story,” Folman said.
Without giving too much away, the film is entirely animated, save for some real live footage from the conflict. Folman said he did this to help educate viewers about the conflict and the massacre, with which younger and Western viewers might not be familiar.
“If just two people Google what happened there, I did my job,” Folman said.
The film’s malleable form echoes one of its central themes — that memory is subjective and changes over time. Its unusual, graphic-novel style animation is actually Flash animation, drawn from scratch, based on a storyboard drawn from a 90-minute live-action video shot on a soundstage, with some support from 3-D animation. The resulting look of the film seems as though it is animated on top of live footage, illuminating the characters while giving the background a hazy, dream-like quality. There are also psychosexual dream sequences, such as three young soldiers emerging nude from the ocean, or a young Folman lying atop a floating, giant, naked blue woman.
“You’ll see that whole process on the DVD,” Folman said. “We picked out something like 3,000 frames, which were the key frames of the film, and then started moving the animation.”
In addition to a special feature on the animatics of Waltz With Bashir, the DVD and Blu-ray Disc also house an English-language version of the film, which is mostly in Hebrew with subtitles, as well as a making-of featurette, and a Q&A and commentary with Folman.