WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Vals Im Bashir) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 15, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“A powerful animated film with a clear message. ‘WALTZ WITH BASHIR’ is one of those films that you just can’t forget and even heartbreaking to know that the atrocities are based on a factual event. The animation is cool, stylish and overall a unique presentation but it’s the soul of the film that is difficult to forget. Highly recommended!”
TITLE: WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Vals Im Bashir)
YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2008
DURATION: 90 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), Hebrew and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English and English SDH Subtitles
RATED: R (For some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content)
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2009
Directed by Ari Folman
Produced by Ari Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner, Yael Nahelieli, Roman Paul
Music by Max Richter
Edited by Nili Feller
Art Direction by David Polonsky
Production Management by David Berdah and Verona Meier
Ron Ben-Yishai as the voice of himself
Ronny Dayag as the voice of himself
Ari Folman as the voice of himself
Dror Harazi as the voice of himself
Yehezkel Lazarov as the voice of Carmi Cna’an
Mickey Leon as the voice of Boaz Rein-Buskila
Ori Sivan as the voice of himself
Zahava Solomon as the voice of herself
In 2008, Ari Folman wanted to shoot out a clear message through his Israeli animated documentary called “Vals Im Bashir” (known as “WALTZ WITH BASHIR”) that is about Folman’s memories of the 1982 Lebanon War but it was his anti-war film that revolved around the 1982 Lebanon War but moreso for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in which Pakistan and Lebanon refugees (thousands) were massacred.
The film was risky for Folman because of the difficulty of getting funding for the film because although it was a documentary, it was animated which is literally unheard of, for a documentary. But it’s storyline is a part of history that can easily open old wounds but also can help bring attention to a horrific time in man’s past but also to learn from it.
“WALTZ WITH BASHIR” has been so successful that it earned an Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Film”, it won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, NSFC Aware for “Best Film”, a Cesar Award for “Best Foreign Film” and an IDA Award for “Feature Documentary”. Needless to say, “WALTZ WITH BASHIR” is a powerful film in which Ari Folman sends us a clear message with his goals to show that there is nothing positive that can come out of war.
The documentary revolves around Ari Folman who served the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) back in 1982 during the Lebanon War. It is 2006 and he is unable to sleep. He appears to have these visions each night which he sees himself and other friends that were in the military floating in water and watching flares being shot into the sky. Ari doesn’t remember his military years and now he is in search of why he has been having these visions and what is real and what is not real.
So, we see Ari traveling to visit friends in different parts of the world. Friends that he served in the 1982 Lebanon War with and hopefully get an idea of how he was during the war, if anyone remembered him and hopefully give him a clue of why these dreams/visions are happening to him now and why he doesn’t remember anything from the war.
Throughout the documentary, we see a glimpse of Ari Folman’s life as a young adult and his life in the military but the documentary doesn’t just focus on his life. We also learn about how others survived the 1982 Lebanon War who discuss their experience. One who survived the war by escaping to sea alone while his comrades perished but upon returning home, there was no hero’s welcome. Another who covered the atrocities of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre and much more.
The documentary is unique in that Ari Folman utilizes animation that is not your typical animation but utilizing a style that focuses on colors and dark hues created with Adobe Flash and vector style of artwork and also utilizing CG artwork and classic animation.
So, for example, during an interview with a former soldier from back during the 1982 Lebanon War. The person’s mannerisms is captured well via animation and we see parts from the interview in the present but depicting their stories through animation.
From discussion of soldiers having to bring dead bodies back to the base, fellow soldiers being killed next to them and just the soldier’s memories as they recount their war years, discussion about survival and the overall atrocities of war. Even Folman going through therapy and trying to find out what these images in his head mean to him.
And as animation plays a big part in the film, as does music as we hear the music of electronic musician Max Richter, Public Image Ltd.’s “This is Not a Love Song”, The Clique’s “Incubator” and more.
But what makes “WALTZ WITH BASHIR” so amazing is the personal message delivered throughout the film about the 1982 Lebanon War but also Folman’s message that there is nothing cool about war. And then ending the film with a real life atrocity that when Folman finds out the truth of why he has blocked out his old war memory, its simply ends with an unforgettable scene. A scene that echoes Folman’s message of how war is simply not cool at all.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“WALTZ WITH BASHIR” is simply a vibrant and colorful animated film featured in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The amount of work that went into this film is just incredible and I was really enjoying the artistic style of Yoni Goodman and the Bridgit Folman Film Gang Studio in Israel.
Documentaries are typically not animated and many people today have tried to leave this part of history behind them but Folman was wise to take on a challenge and bringing this film out now and so, many people who are not familiar with the 1982 Lebanon War can now understand how atrocious this war had become leading up to the fateful, tragic Sabra and Shatila massacre.
The animation features good hues of amber, but also an animation style that effectively showcased emotion, violence and even sexual themes. And each scene brings out a tremendous amount of amber oranges and reds, overall “WALTZ WITH BASHIR” was vibrant and picture quality was clear.
As for audio, the documentary is featured in Hebrew and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. It’s one thing to have the dialogue and music come clear through the front channels but this film because it depicts war, does a great job of utilizing sound through the LFE channel and rear channels as well. From a tank backing up, mortal shells and machine guns being fired, there are some scenes where the audio makes you feel immersed as sounds are literally all around you.
Overall, “WALTZ WITh BASHIR” is an animated documentary that looks great and sounds great and overall getting high marks in both categories!
As for subtitles, English SDH and English is featured on the main documentary track.
“WALTZ WITH BASHIR” comes with a few special features (featured in standard definition with English and Hebrew subtitles) which include:
- Commentary with Director Ari Folman – For the commentary, Ari Folman talks about the film in detail and things he wanted to accomplish but moreso being critical on why nothing was done to stop the Sabra and Shatila massacre. There are quite a bit of areas where Folman does keep silent for long periods of time.
- Q&A with Director Ari Folman– (9:16) Ari Folman talks about the film, why he created it and how difficult it was to get funding for the documentary and his personal feelings about war and how he wanted to show how there’s nothing cool about war.
- Surreal Soldiers: Making Waltz with Bashir – (12:03) Ari Folman and those working behind-the-scenes and making everything in the film work via animation. How there was no rotoscoping done on the film, how sequences were done from scratch and how fragments in the face takes a lot of time and hundreds of cuts.. Learninga bout imitating human behavior, catching real life movements, color design, music and taking animatic risks.
- Building the Senes – Animatics: This segment features four animatics which include the edited footage and storyboard: “Beirut Street Battle” with “Ron Ben-Yoshai”, “The Fighting Arts with Shmuel Frenkel”, Tank Patrol with Dror Heraz and “Attack in the Orange Grove”.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The actual original theatrical trailer
After watching “WALTZ WITH BASHIR”, I couldn’t help but applaud Ari Folman and crew for taking the risks in making sure this film was made. In the commentary, Folman talked about how his friends who were part of the film suddenly didn’t want their names being publicly used because of their fear of what kind of reception the film would bring.
I was shocked beyond words of how the documentary ended. It was devastatingly real. For anyone who had to see these atrocities and unable to do anything to stop it and the government not doing anything about it, I can see how these people feel powerless and I can see for Ari Folman, why this documentary was important for him.
Folman commented on how American war films tend to show the unity, the brotherhood, the glory of battle. But how he was dissatisfied of how the films had heroes. But for him, having served in a war, there is nothing cool about war. There were no heroes.
So, the film opened my eyes to another part of man’s history of atrocities that probably many people especially those of us in the United States and other parts of the world are probably unaware of what happened back in 1982. Immediately after the film, I found myself researching the war and the massacre on the Internet and I was just in disbelief and shock because I never knew that such a thing took place.
There is so much I would like to talk about certain parts of the film but mentioning anything else on this review, can easily spoil the film. So, in a way, I prefer viewers who are wanting to experience something difference, especially through this unique style of animation used for a documentary, to please watch “WALTZ WITH BASHIR”.
The animation and overall picture quality was absolutely beautiful and vibrant, the audio quality features really awesome audio depicting the war. I enjoyed the respected nod to Japanese animation mention by Folman during the audio commentary. I also enjoyed the various special features and putting his group of animators to work and bringing out the best in them to create a memorable animated documentary.
There is simply nothing bad I can say about this animated documentary. It’s just well-done, a message that is so chillingly clear and so real, needless to say that “WALTZ WITH BASHIR” is one of those films that you won’t be able to forget.
Overall, “WALTZ WITH BASHIR” is a unique and powerful film worth checking out on Blu-ray!
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