Monday, January 19, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

I saw Waltz with Bashir on Sunday night with a good friend of mine from work. Having heard great things about the film, I was excited to finally see what all the buzz was about. Unfortunately, the film didn't live up to the hype. I found it disappointing on a number of different levels. Here are a few:

The medium of the film was frustrating... or I should say the lack of proficiency with which the animation was executed was frustrating. Because the film's animation was limited, I was never able to experience emotionally what the characters were going through. They would talk about being confused, remorseful, scared, or whatever other emotion it was they were feeling about their memories of the war, but I could never see it in their faces, in the trembling of their lips, or in the quiver of their eyes. It was like watching a robot tell you a war story. Cold. Harsh. Completely void of human emotion.

Now I know a lot of people are going to be shocked at my insensitivity to this film. "After all", they'll say, "this is a serious movie! It's about war. About genocide. This is an important film!"

Yes, the subject matter had gravity. Genocide is no frivolous matter. But it's precisely because the subject matter carries so much weight that the film completely failed for me. We're talking about genocide here - mass killings of groups of human beings. If you're going to depict this in a film, I want to see the emotional responses of both parties: the victims and the perpetrators. War is inherently full of contradictions - moral, ethical, emotional. I want to see those contradictions, those conflicts, those tensions play out on the screen, not just hear about it.

While I was watching the film, I kept asking myself, "why is this film animated?... and why is it animated in flash?... what storytelling advantages does the director gain by using this technique?" And the only reasons I could come up with were: (1) budgetary reasons. Animating the movie in flash would allow the director to portray scenes of war without having to foot the bill of real life helicopters, exploding buildings, and special effects. (2) Style for styles sake. Which is no reason at all in my book.

The most relevant parts of the film are the last few shots, where we see real footage of the Palestinians reacting in horror to the violence and injustices enacted on them and their families. The images were powerful, the emotion potent and real, and it bore a gravity that I wished the rest of the 115 minutes of the film had.