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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Ari Folman
Ori Sivan
Ronny Dayag
Shmuel Frenkel
Ron Ben-Yishai.
Directors
Ari Folman.
Screenwriters
Running Time
90mins minutes

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Waltz With Bashir
The best animated documentary you'll see this year. Or any


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Plot
On realising he has no memory of serving in the Israeli Army during the First Lebanon War in 1982, Ari Folman tracks down his old buddies to hear their stories of the conflict, and try to solve the mystery of his own psychological blindspot.


Review
Waltz With Bashir
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War is hell. Movies from All Quiet On The Western Front to Platoon have told us this much, vividly and brutally. So to note that Waltz With Bashir concerns the impact of the First Lebanon War on young men with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) might lead you to wonder if the film has anything new to say. But Waltz With Bashir is nothing if not innovative.

It’s a personal film, playing out as a kind of mystery, sparked by a bad dream. No opening shots here of rolling tanks, belching fire from their flattened heads. No thrum of propellers or burnt foliage to shock and draw us in. Instead we have a pack of snarling, red-eyed dogs, pelting through a city under an oppressive, mustard-gas sky, knocking down street furniture while mothers clutch their children in fear. As opening gambits go, this isn’t just gripping: it throttles.

The source of this nightmare, dreamed by a friend of documentary-maker Ari Folman, is quickly revealed: during the war, this friend shot dead 26 Lebanese mutts to stop them warning their masters about the encroaching IDF. But this isn’t the mystery, and the friend isn’t the subject. Rather, the dream’s meaning precipitates a disquieting realisation for Folman: he doesn’t have bad dreams. He doesn’t even have memories of the war, even though he fought in it. During his walk home, he’s hit by a lucid vision of himself wading naked through the sea, when the sky is streaked with flares — eerily lighting Folman’s long, handsomely sad features. So begins a psychological spelunking expedition as, via the recollections of his comrades, Folman tentatively delves into the recesses of his subconcious to exhume a deep trauma.

It might smack a little of filmmaking as therapy, but Folman relates the stories of those he interviews back to his own journey with respect and care. And it’s important to emphasise such respect: when you’re dealing with sensitive truths, with stories of men being ordered to fire into darkness with no idea of why they’re doing it; of the ‘waltz’ of the title, danced by one IDF soldier while firing down a Beirut street, then animation hardly seems the most ‘respectful’ medium.

Yet the stark, high-contrast animation is the lifebreath of Folman’s film, appropriately moving the interviewees’ recollections away from the talking-head/archive-footage standard and towards something gorgeously graphical and soaringly inventive. Here we see warfare not just on the sensory level but also on the subconscious: recollection, fever-dream and immediate experience all at once.

Perhaps it’s not the most balanced approach. Folman could be accused of overlooking uncomfortable elements once the revelation occurs. Part of the reason, of course, is that war depersonalises, as his numbness attests. But, while he’s repainting reality, this is no whitewash: the IDF, with its dubious mission to “cleanse” Palestinian missile sites by invading Beirut and boosting the Lebanese Christians to power, isn’t let off lightly. In fact, it isn’t let off at all, and a tough decision to end with harrowing real-life footage rams this home.


Verdict
A bravura documentary which balances the personal and the political as it peers into the First Lebanon War, its animated approach never feeling like a novelty. Astonishing, unforgettable: you have to see it.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Waltz With Bashir
Empire Star Rating

Uniformly Interesting

The concept of a cartoon documentary is one that raised a few eyebrows in the run up to this films release. Nay-sayers had nothing to fear, however, as the animation adds a new layer to the documentary form, and aside from being distracting in a few places, definitely enhances it. From a filmic standpoint however, whilst the film is definitely interesting and as heartbreaking as every review will have you believe, Waltz With Bashir ultimately feels like it's missing something. That special flair... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 23:03, 06 April 2011 | Report This Post


A cartoon documentary? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by david hayes at 18:44, 31 May 2010 | Report This Post


A cartoon documentary? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by david hayes at 18:44, 31 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: waltz with bashir

Very good film, but shies away from the placement of responsibility of the war crimes committed during the invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli's collectively, and the IDF soldiers on an individual level. ... More

Posted by spamandham at 13:40, 02 June 2009 | Report This Post


waltz with bashir

A fine film, the striking animation injecting something new into material that may have been seen in countless other war films, helped by a terrific soundtrack and some sobering accounts of the horrors of war. (8/10) ... More

Posted by MOTH at 10:45, 01 June 2009 | Report This Post


scootster says

this was a weird experience i watched it one night thought yeah nice looking mmm dunno then a couple of days later for some reason i was sending the disc back into my dvd player now seen it about 3 times theres something hypnotic about this style the music must be honored as it really sets the mood for each scene images at the end were obviously all the more hard hitting as the animation just became like real life but when i seen the real life (whatever that means) footage it gave a harder punch... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gordon livey at 19:23, 19 May 2009 | Report This Post


A Must See

From the opening few minutes where the animation style startles you, it grabs your attention and does'nt let go. You'll find that it's enduring images staying with you for a long time afterwards. A very important, thought provoking and moving film. Will be talked about for many years to come. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rwillis122 at 14:12, 09 April 2009 | Report This Post


Beautifully Heart Breaking

Agree with all 5* raters :-D ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by omarx at 00:21, 02 April 2009 | Report This Post


I finally saw it yesterday, here are my thoughts: tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1185616/]Waltz With Bashireautiful animation film that tells the true story of director Ari Folman. Through a serie of conversations with his old army mates he tries to get his memories clear about the things that happened during the massacre during the Israeli war against Lebanon, from wich he doesn`t remember nothing but 1 thing. In real life, Folman did have these conversations with his ex mates and filmed them. T... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 20:50, 15 February 2009 | Report This Post


RE: 5 stars

L: zombieman film burner what year was that made. not one i herd off sp; 2008, well that was when it was released.   Deserves a much bigger audience than it seems to of got.   Ah well, hopefully it winning an oscar will go some way to rectifying that. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 05:18, 04 February 2009 | Report This Post


Waltz

I saw this film a few months back and couldn't review it. There are far too many dialogue scenes with just talking heads on the screen to give it true power. For more film info, check out my site. Enjoy The Rake http://thefilmnest.com ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The Rake at 20:06, 30 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: 5 stars

L: zombieman waltz with basher... is that a posh wank? s that when you sling Victoria Beckham on the end of it? ... More

Posted by southend_styler at 18:10, 29 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: 5 stars

waltz with basher... is that a posh wank? ... More

Posted by zombieman at 17:39, 29 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: 5 stars

film burner what year was that made. not one i herd off ... More

Posted by zombieman at 17:35, 29 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: 5 stars

proff that animation is not all about Disney ,a simply astonishing film about a dark part of Israels history.   A better film i have not seen in a long time 10/10  ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 15:06, 27 January 2009 | Report This Post


5 stars

fantastic movie! check it ... More

Posted by Worldz at 17:11, 22 January 2009 | Report This Post


Beautiful, Disturbing, Hypnotic, Heartbreaking...everything you want in a film!

A beautifully made but powerful film who's message doesn't get lost in the eye candy. Far & away the most original film I've seen this year & seeing it on the big screen makes it an amazing experience.   5/5   ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:24, 19 December 2008 | Report This Post


Beautiful, Disturbing, Hypnotic, Heartbreaking...everything you want in a film!

I have to agree with everyone else here, a beautifully made but powerful film who's message doesn't get lost in the eye candy. Far & away the most original film I've seen this year & seeing it on the big screen makes it an amazing experience. Along with the Dark Knight, No Country for Old Men, the Diving Bell & the Butterfily & Wall E, this completes my top 5 films of the yeasr. Just don't ask me in what order cause that's so difficult! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:24, 19 December 2008 | Report This Post


If you want emotional punch... You'll be bruised

Caught it al last... What a film!!!! No need to go into detail.. It's a brave attempt to articulate one of many of Israel's crimes.. but to say it with such panache, simplicity, and poetry!!!!! It is simply astounding... I was so mesmerised by the beauty of the imageryand the score, sometimes I even forget to read the subtitles, and miss out on chunks of dialogue... You have to see it to believe it... But unfortunately, something tells me not alot of people will go see... which is a real shame... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by omarx at 12:42, 15 December 2008 | Report This Post


RE:

Best film I've seen this year (i.e. since the Oscars)? Quite possibly. Spell-binding, with a finishing gut-punch that will leave whatever cinema you're in completely silent through the closing credits. It's still showing, so go see it if you know what's good for you. ... More

Posted by C M Newcombe at 14:54, 09 December 2008 | Report This Post


Don't want to over analyse this, because it should be seen to be understood. I'll content myself with saying it's the best film I've seen this year and fully deserving of the praise it has received. That an animated film about a massacre almost 30 years ago is so brilliantly realised is astounding, but really, see it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TonySoprano at 09:40, 04 December 2008 | Report This Post


Astonishing, it was hard to simultaneously admire the animation and absorb the story but that's my only gripe..... beautifully surreal and hypnotic, best watched in the cinema ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ace Rothstein at 14:50, 30 November 2008 | Report This Post


Astonishing, it was hard to simultaneously admire the animation and absorb the story but that's my only gripe..... beautifully surreal and hypnotic, best watched in the cinema ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ace Rothstein at 14:50, 30 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: An astonishing movie that you won't soon forget. I really cannot describe this experience.

 I liked it the first time around, but after seeing it again this evening, I think it's a masterpiece. It's a watershed for animation to be used to illustrate, what is essentially a documentary, so creatively. The Sabra and Shatila massacres are among the darkest chapters of recent Middle Eastern history. I get the impression that if an outsider tried to film the events around the incident, it wouldn't be as evocative and moving as it is in this film. If i have any criticism at all, it wou... More

Posted by Giant Green Rabbit at 23:34, 24 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: An astonishing movie that you won't soon forget. I really cannot describe this experience.

A documentary about a massacre during the Lebbon war, however using animation for the majority of proceedings. Even at 90mins I felt this was a touch too long, however come the closing moments the silence in the cinema was extremely powerful. Full of unforgettable imagery, great use of music and first hand accounts, it managed to engage viewers who would normally be put off by documentaries, animated movies or just foreign films in general. Cast aside your worries and check out this hebrew... More

Posted by raithrover at 20:43, 23 November 2008 | Report This Post


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