Perambulating the Bounds

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

Maria and I saw Waltz with Bashir tonight at the Belcourt. This is the Israeli animated documentary (written and directed by Ari Folman) about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, perpetrated by Lebanese Christian Phalangist militiamen with Israeli assistance. Everyone should go see this movie. Not only is it a devastating picture of this terrible war, absolutely heart-wrenching, even more compelling coming from an Israeli perspective, but it's also a thoughtful exploration of how memory works. Imagined memories, waking dreams, and hallucinations have as much status as more accurate recollections of events because these "false" memories serve different purposes. The animation results in beautiful images, and also allows the director to create an environment where past and present stand on a visually equivalent stage.

But the main thing this movie does is take an unflinching view of this war, and war in general, in its devastation and absurdity. And the timing of the film's release is spooky, coming upon the heels of the attack on Gaza.

One of the things that made this film compelling for me is seeing men about my age putting together and dealing with their memories of the war and the massacre. If I were Israeli, this might have been "my war," although I guess I would have already done my conscript service--my brother would have been more like the right age.

Put all this together, the terrible events of '82 and middle-aged ruefulness, and you get about the saddest movie I've seen in a long time.

Here's A.O. Scott's review of the film in the Times.


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