Waltz With Bashir
History and Memory
• Like Persepolis, Waltz With Bashir aims to
explore a national narrative
• However, Waltz With Bashir accomplishes this
exploration through memory
– Ari’s personal memories are intertwined with a
traumatic memory in Israeli history
– Ari’s quest to restore his memories coincides with
the desire to restore relevancy to the massacre at
the Sabra and Shatila camps
Let’s consider the opening scene...
Let’s consider the opening scene...
• Before a dog is shown, the first shot of the
film cues us to the fact that something is not
quite right with this scene
– The only colour in the scene is found in the
yellow sky, creating a world that exists between
full colour, and black and white.
– We are provided with a very tight, low-angle
establishing shot, when the typical establishing
shot would be wide, high-angle shot
– The camera pulls out, whereas in most
establishing shots, the camera would push in
Let’s consider the opening scene...
• The surreal nature of the opening shot is
punctuated by the pack of dogs racing through
the street
• We are meant to find this scene disturbing
because it somehow defies our expectations
of reality
• It is only when the scene ends that we realize
we have witnessed a dream
Dreams and Memory
• The first two scenes establish a link between
dream and memory
– Boaz shot 26 dogs in Lebanon and it is the same
26 dogs that haunt him in his dreams
• Recall that Ori, the therapist, explains to Ari
that dreams are directly related to memory
Recall the other dreams
• These scenes are visually similar to the opening
• These dreams relate to a traumatic memory
• Carmi’s experience on the boat, Ari’s experience at the massacre
• This is one way in which the film explores the theme
of mediation
Mediated History
• Waltz With Bashir uses mediation in order to
consider the slippery nature of memory and
history
• As dreams bleed into memories, fiction bleeds
into fact, and we are not sure where one ends
and the other begins
Mediated History and Memory
• The dreams are not the only example repressed memory in the film
• Ari explains how he repressed the memory of the airport the
moment when he first entered it, imagining a place full of
opportunity and a chance to escape
• The truth is that he cannot escape his place in history
• Our minds modify our memory in order to construct narratives that
we are comfortable with
Mediated History and Memory
• The “literal” waltz in the film is a memory that
has become legend over time
• The film mythologizes the Waltz through the
use of music and composition, putting into
question what is real and what is fiction
Mediated History and Colour
• The film uses colour to represent the tenuous
grip that Ari has on history
• The more he remembers, the more colour
returns to his reminiscences
Mediated History and Form
• In the film, Ari is always close to the truth of his
memory/history but it is always out of reach
• The mediated nature of the dream creates
suspense, because we learn Ari’s role in the
massacre at the same time that he does
• It’s only when he is able to move past the
mediation that the truth is revealed
• A similar revelation happens to the audience at
the end of the film
Mediated History and Scene
• The film also uses subtle visual cues to
indicate the slippery nature of history
• Note the background in these two shots
Mediated History and Photography
• The film also considers the difficulty of
capturing memory
• Photographs are a common motif found in the
film
Mediated History and Photography
Mediated History and Photography
• But photographs often fail to capture history
accurately or in its entirety
• Ari doesn’t recognize himself in the photo
• The film also shows us failed attempts to capture
history/memory
Mediated History and Reification
• This is the “figurative” waltz with Bashir, as the Israelis are
complicit by choosing to align themselves with him in Lebanon
• The film explores the consequences of turning a man into a symbol
• Pictures of Bashir are an oppressive force in the film, and his death
is used as justification for the massacres
• The truth of Bashir is lost to the propaganda of the mediated
images
Mediated History and Medium
• Ari Folman shot and edited together a cut of the
film with interview footage and re-enactments
• That film was then used as reference material for
the animators (not rotoscoped!)
Mediated History and Medium
• Folman wanted to produce an animated
documentary because it allowed him to
recreate moments of war that wouldn’t have
been possible in a traditional documentary
• But the fact that it is animated puts into
question the verisimilitude of the
documentary
• How much of the narrative is invented in
service of the documentary?
Mediated History and Medium
• The film itself reminds us that film is a
mediated experience
• The PTSD therapist talks about a patient who
viewed the war through a lens in order to
cope with the horrors of war
Mediated History and Medium
• Televisions are shown to be mediated experiences that can be
manipulated
• The time lapsed scene when Ari returns home
• The mediated experience points to the difficulty of assimilating back
into society
• The officer who orders Ari to fast forward through the video
Mediated History and Medium
• Ari’s experience as a tank commander is reduced
to a video game
Mediated History and Medium
• The end of the film removes a layer of mediation and gives us real
reactions to the massacre
• We enter the film through a dream and by the end of the film, we
“wake up” and are forced to face the harsh reality with Ari
• It is a reminder that this was a real event and takes us out of the
comfort zone that mediation provides
•
Also, note how the colours at the end have reversed (from the opening and from Ari’s
dream) – yellow becomes the dominant colour as Ari recovers his memory of the event
Conclusions
• Waltz With Bashir is partly autobiographical,
but is more focused on exploring the massacre
at Sabra and Shatila
• The film wants us to consider how our
memories are mediated
• And as our memories are mediated, so is
history itself
• It’s only when we peel back the layers of
mediation can we see the truth of history
Comparisons
• Waltz With Bashir pairs well thematically with
Redacted as war films that want you to
consider how you experience war
• The Hurt Locker and Green Zone treat the
experience of war from the opposite direction
• Both films yearn to reproduce reality and try
their best not to remind you of a mediated
experience by focusing strictly on naturalistic
film techniques