Waltz with Bashir BD impressions
When it comes to animation, I’m pretty much a snob and I make no apologies for it. I think it’s a marvellous medium and one with almost limitless untapped potential, which is why when I watch films like Waltz with Bashir, hamstrung by the constraints of live action, I always feel a bit let down. For those who don’t know, this film is about an Israeli soldier’s repressed memories of his involvement in the 1982 massacre of Palestinians and Lebanese by Christian militia. That soldier is the writer/director himself, Ari Folman, and the dramatised sections are intercut with actual interviews conducted by Folman of fellow soldiers recounting their own memories of the events. The bulk of the material, therefore, appears to have been live action originally, but everything was ultimately overlaid with Adobe Flash cut-outs (barring some horrific real life news footage at the very end). Although the technique appears to have been slightly different, it looks very similar to Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly in practice. I hated the look in that film and it’s just as grating here. My brother, I think, hit the nail on the head when he described it as “floaty toilet paper”, in that it has no real consistency or weight to it. It reeks of stylisation for stylisation’s sake and, while there are some undeniably arresting images on display, the overall effect is to distance the viewer from the reality of what is being portrayed on screen.
At least Waltz with Bashir is a somewhat better film than A Scanner Darkly, though in my opinion far from the masterpiece some have claimed. It strikes me as being rather too aware of itself as an “issue film” for its own good, leaving this viewer at least with the impression that he was being preached to, while the “animation” style is on the whole an eyesore. It also suffers from a degree of tunnel vision: very few of the on-screen events are set in context. You could argue that this is appropriate given the confusion and mindlessness of the carnage being depicted, but on several occasions I found myself somewhat lost and wishing I had a better idea of what was supposed to be happening.
By the way, Hillel Halkin, who fought in the war himself, has written an extremely interesting account of the events which is in part a response to Waltz with Bashir. I must confess to finding it infinitely more enlightening, and more eloquently expressed, than anything in Ari Folman’s film. I’ll say one thing, though: I admire Folman immensely for having the balls to paint such a damning portrait of his country of origin and its involvement in the horrific events that occurred in Lebanon in 1982. In doing so, it has predictably attracted accusations of anti-Semitism, which I must say I fail to understand… unless you’re of the belief that any criticism of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic, a notion that I find incalculably asinine.
Visually, Artificial Eye have done sterling work for this UK BD release. The image is crisp, and the veneer of artificial grain that was added by the filmmakers shines through with no apparent attempts to reduce or mask it. It’s a little too much for the encoder to handle, and a number of the shots below show artefacting. In motion, it’s rarely an issue, although you can occasionally spot blocking in shots with large washes of the same colour. The disc is a BD-25, and I wonder if switching to a BD-50 would have given better results, as it would have given the compressionist more room to play with. High contrast edges (in other words, the black outlines of the characters) show a slight amount of haloing, though I can only speculate as to the reason for this: Filtering? Edge enhancement? Downconversion from the higher resolution source? In any event, it’s rarely bothersome, but it and the slight compression issues to prevent this disc from attaining full marks. 9.5/10
Waltz with Bashir
studio: Artificial Eye; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 21.8 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 34.64 Mbit/sec