To experience "Waltz With Bashir" is to take a tour inside the mind of a war veteran suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It's a mix of hallucinations, real battle horrors and nightmares, all glued together with deepseated guilt over a massacre of innocents, which he is unsure whether or not he had a hand in committing.
Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, "Waltz With Bashir" is a memoir of his experience as a soldier in the Lebanon War of 1982. A documentary of sorts, it is an investigation by the filmmaker decades later as to what led up to the senseless slaughter of 3,000 Palestinian refugee men, women and children in the Sabra and Shatila camps. The perpetrators were the Christian Phalangist militia, responding to the assassination of newly-elected Lebanese President Bashir Gemayal. However, an Israeli government report found that its military was indirectly responsible, leading a psychiatrist friend of Folman to come to the troubling conclusion, "You took the role of Nazi." This is after the filmmaker reveals that his family members were killed in the Holocaust.
In surreal animation, Folman interviews former soldiers and colleagues searching for the truth to bring closure to his recurring nightmares. The memories of the soldiers are hopelessly mixed with disturbing visions, making it difficult to nail down reality. One thing is for certain: During the fighting, no one is quite sure at whom he is shooting or why.
The animation, however, comes to an abrupt halt in the end when we witness actual newsreel footage of wailing women and the mutilated corpses themselves.
There is nothing surreal, poetic or ambivalent here. We're looking directly at death and have to deal with it.
Go to "Waltz With Bashir" and deal with it.