Waltz with Bashir (2008) – [rate 4.5]
In this animated documentary, Ari Folman makes very effective use of animation. It’s not just stylistic, though many of the scenes are sleek, colorful or even hallucinatory thanks to the style of animation that reminds me of woodcut prints and Flash animation. But by showing you scenes with extreme violence or under poor circumstances in stark animation, the movie takes away the grit and filth that would just detract from what is going on and why people are acting the way they are.
Through rotoscoping, the characters seem very much alive and natural. What adds to this is the fact that the interviews that alternate with flashbacks are also animated, even though they needn’t be. And because everything is animated, there is no discernable visual difference between scenes that are actual direct documentary and scenes that have been re-enacted.
As a story, the movie shows you what the situation in and around Beiroet was like, how the events were experienced by those present and what motivated them to be there or to act the way they did. All this sets you up to be able to deal with the final scenes of the movie that would have been just another news reel if you would have watched them at the outset.
The movie also takes you along in the process of trying to recover lost memories and has you constantly wondering at the veracity of the reclaimed memories, as the characters in the story discuss this themselves. It’s very clever, very entertaining (though macabre at times) and never too high-brow. The people in the movie are normal people, trying to live normal lives under extraordinary circumstances.
There is really nothing I would want to change about this movie and even though it may not be for everyone, I think it couldn’t be better at what it is trying to be.