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Animation / Waltz with Bashir

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Waltz with Bashir (Hebrew: ואלס עם באשיר‎ - Vals Im Bashir) is a 2008 Israeli animated documentary film written and directed by Ari Folman. The movie deals with the strange nature of human memory, through interviews with several Israeli soldiers who took part in the First Lebanon War of 1982; visceral visual re-enactments of their memories; and conversations with psychologists about repressed memories, invented memories, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2006, more than 20 years after the war, Ari meets up for drinks with his old friend Boaz. Boaz reveals that he's been having recurring nightmares about the dogs he had killed during the war as a marksman. Ari realizes that he can't remember any of his own experiences during the war. That night Ari experiences his first Flashback - a bizarre scene of himself emerging out of the sea at night, naked, to see stars falling out of the sky over Beirut. This begins his journey to rediscover his own past by seeking out the men who were with him in the memory, and deciphering the meaning of the memory itself - a memory of the night of the Sabra and Shatila massacres near the very end of the war.

The entire movie, including the in-person interviews, is fully animated - much of it in Adobe Flash. It was the first feature-length animated Israeli film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action-Hogging Opening: The film's opening, which follows a pack of dogs tearing through a city, is its most fast-paced and visually dynamic sequence.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Happens to Folman after his first tour in Lebanon to show his alienation from society.
  • Angry Guard Dog: During his time in the army, Boaz ends up shooting twenty-six dogs: their barking have would alert the wanted Palestinians his unit was hunting, and he had informed his superiors that he couldn't shoot at other people, so he was assigned to dog duty. 20 years later, the dead dogs still haunt him, and the opening sequence is one of his nightmares of them chasing after him.
  • Anti-Climax: Near the end of the movie, after the true intention of the Phalangists is discovered, we see how the news of the massacre wanders up the ranks of the IDF. When it finally hits an Israeli officer who cares and takes action, it's already morning. We then see a military jeep driving up to the Phalangists, a man gets out, picks up a bullhorn... and says in a deadpan voice: "Stop the shooting". The Phalangists stop, the surviving refugees return to their destroyed camp, and the man drives off again.
  • Apathetic Citizens: At one scene showing a battle between the Israeli soldiers and the militants, Lebanese civilians were watching the whole battle from their balconies as if they were just watching a drive-by movie, without caring if they might get shot.
  • Art Shift:
    • The film abruptly changes to live-action news footage at the end of the film when Folman comes face to face with his memories of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre. This is a Call-Back to earlier in the film when Folman is interviewing the psychologist: Like the soldier that viewed the war as if "through a camera", the film's animated style can be interpreted as representing Folman's dissociation from the events of the war. When he is confronted with the grieving relatives of the massacre's victims, Folman can no longer diminish the reality of the atrocity he is witnessing.
    • The graphic novel adaptation switches to photographs of the massacre, with only one photo of a wailing survivor.
  • The Atoner: Folman's story of the search for his lost memories, as well as the very reason he lost them in the first place, is of guilt over whatever happened on the night of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. While he didn't directly participate, Folman cannot deal with the guilt of having been one of the Israeli soldiers whose job was to launch flares into the sky above the city- the light from which allowed the Phalangists to commit their atrocities. The "falling stars" from his vision are actually flares.
  • Badass Israeli:
    • Deconstructed/subverted. Pretty much all of the soldiers shown are just scared kids who would rather be back home. Frenkel does have his moments, though.
    • Journalist Ron Ben-Yishai is portrayed this way, as he walks calmly and upright through an intense firefight between the IDF and Palestinian snipers, while his cameraman crawls along next to him on his hands and knees. Ben-Yishai covered several wars in person throughout his career, including traveling to Damascus, Syria - an enemy country!
    • Frenkel is also portrayed this way in the titular scene, where he dances with a MAG in the middle of a firefight (the same firefight Ben-Yishai walked through). Furthermore, we are first introduced to Frenkel doing martial arts practice in a black-belted robe. Soon after, he imparts a pro tip for combat infantry leaders: Use a pungent cologne so that your soldiers can keep track of your location in the dead of night.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Folman and Boaz remarking that car bombs are "a blast."
    • The red Mercedes montage. It starts with a group of soldiers trying to hitch a ride on a Huey helicopter by holding on to the skids, but one guy slips and gets left behind. As he's shouting for the helicopter to come back around, a red Mercedes drives past and a man with an AK-47 standing in the sunroof shoots him in the head. The Mercedes then does another, much gorier drive-by shooting on a street in broad daylight, killing another five soldiers. In the next shot, an IDF sniper attempts to shoot the driver of the Mercedes, but the car just happens to pass by some random farmer on a donkey who gets shot instead. Next, an IDF artillery battery has a go at the Mercedes, but they keep missing the car and blowing up a whole row of houses behind it. Finally an F-4 jet targets the Mercedes from above and drops a big bomb right on top of it, taking out an entire street... and the Mercedes emerges from the cloud and drives away.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Ronny Dayag's commander after he gets lethally wounded and dragged down into the tank.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Frenkel, the MAG shooter, doesn't seem to run out of ammunition while dancing in the street and firing around.
  • Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: When an IDF soldier is shown in a bath, his rifle is resting on the edge of the tub.
  • Child Soldiers: Frenkel tells the director how he and his troop were attacked by a boy with an RPG in an orchard and had to shoot him.
  • Cruel Mercy: Boaz told his superiors that he "could never shoot a human being". So they gave him a silencer and told him to take out their dogs instead. The dogs began to haunt his dreams from that moment on.
  • Church Militant: The Phalangists.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A graphic novel was released in 2009.
  • Dream Intro: The film opens with a fast-paced and visually dynamic sequence of a pack of dogs tearing through a city. The scene turns out to be the recurring nightmare of a supporting cast member.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The director presents his ex-girlfriend this way. She dumped him on the same week that he shipped out, and he has visions and dreams of her during his experience at war. The director's wife objected to how pretty she looks in the film.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Averted, as the entire film is about unlocking a repressed memory through conversations and self-exploration, ultimately leading Ari to remember that he was present in Beirut during the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and perhaps indirectly assisted them.
  • Flashbacks: Most of the film is comprised of scraped-together memories from veterans of the invasion of Beirut.
  • Flies Equals Evil: The sound of flies during the dead horses scene.
  • Freestate Amsterdam: The National Stereotypes about Israelis going to (or moving to) the Netherlands just to get legally high.
  • Hell Hound: The twenty-six dogs in the start.
  • Hollywood Darkness: The nightly army maneuvers are depicted with more natural light than there should have been.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Ron Ben-Yishai.
  • Match Cut: During Frenkel's description of day-to-day life on the beach in Lebanon. We see a soldier in nothing but white briefs sitting down for breakfast on the beach, with a backgammon board and a football scattered about. He gets a phone call, puts down the plate, and stands up. As he's getting up, we match-cut to him in full combat gear in an orchard, hunting for terrorists.
  • More Dakka: The IDF soldiers that invade Lebanon fire at everything. Not everything that moves. Everything.
  • Murder by Inaction: the true source of Folman's guilt. He and the other Israeli soldiers didn't participate in the Sabra and Shatila massacres - but they stood aside quietly and watched while Lebanese phalangists butchered the refugees, even knowingly continuing to launch flares into the sky despite knowing that the light was allowing the phalangists to find fleeing victims.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: The film starts with Boaz, Ari Folman's long time friend, recounting a recurring dream in which he is menaced by the dogs he shot during the war.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The final scene is real footage of the aftermath.
  • Repressed Memories: Folman's interviews of fellow veterans is inspired by his own inability to remember his role in the war.
  • Secondary Character Title: President Bashir is referred to but doesn't actually appear in the movie except on posters. In fact, he was already dead by the time of the titular waltz.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Used as the main component of the plot, when Ari has a bizarre flashback about emerging naked from the sea near Beirut - a distorted memory that his mind conjures in order to protect itself from the realization that he may have indirectly participated a massacre. The rest of the movie is mostly a discussion / deconstruction of the trope to explain why this happens in real life.
  • Separate Scene Storytelling: Events, that are being recalled by characters, are shown as animated sequences to avoid too much of Talking Heads.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Pretty much all of the Israeli soldiers, effects on the group range from being tormented by reocurring nightmares to completely forgetting chunks of the war due to severe Trauma-Induced Amnesia.
  • Shout-Out: Soldier surfing under fire.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In a few scenes, the film uses classical music and rocking 80's singles over scenes of war. Some of those songs seem to be written specifically about the Lebanon War, however.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Ronny Dayag, who is the only member of his tank crew to survive.
  • Title Drop: During a heavy firefight in the streets of Beirut, when Shmuel Frenkel wrestles a gun away from another soldier and charges alone out into the open, firing wildly:
    Folman: I don't know if it lasted an eternity or a minute, but I watched Frenkel in that intersection with a hail of bullets whistling past him from every direction; and instead of running to the other side of the junction, he suddenly started dancing. He was in a real trance. He was showing them that he had no intention of leaving that intersection, that he wants to stay there forever. He wants to dance a waltz between their bullets, surrounded by giant posters of Bashir."
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Ronny Dayag was abandoned by his unit on the battlefield by the shore. He hid until nightfall and then swam to safety.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: The driving force of the film is the main character's search for his memories of the war.
  • Trivial Title: The waltzing scene is just a minor event in the recollection of the war but becomes the title of the movie.
  • Unflinching Walk: Ron Ben-Yishai.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Of the seasick soldier on the love boat.
  • War Is Hell: The director stated that he intended to show that war is awful, and to not give the audience any heroic characters to emulate. Indeed, the stories people tell generally reflect poorly on the IDF in general and them in particular.
  • Weirdness Censor: Happens to Ari at the Beirut International Airport on his second tour. As he walks through the terminal everything seems lovely, like being on a trip abroad... until suddenly he realizes that the airport is abandoned and the planes sitting outside have all been bombed to pieces.