As a narrative, Israeli Ari Folman's movie tells the story of a former combatant trying to recover his memories of the Lebanon war in 1982 - the arrival of the Israeli troops in Beirut and the massacres in the refugee camps.
This is when you ask yourself an important question when it comes to the topic of military responsability. How much can someone who watches a war unfolding understand what is actually happening? Ari isn't aware of every fact in this war; apparently, aside from the highest political and military ranks, noone seems to know exactly why they are there; the war moves and the advances of the tanks happen almost like an excursion, with background music, even, and before the sudden deaths noone seems to know what to do. And when horror first starts to seep in noone even notices. Can we ask for more from someone who is holding a gun in his hands?
How does a soldier interpret the world in which he moves in? And to what extent is keeping his distance a legitimate move of survival, and to what extent does it incriminate him? The first time I ever stumbled upon this debate, the war was a different one: journalists, historians and former German soldiers were discussing a series of newspaper articles to what extent did regular troops in World War II (the ones who were not in the SS) knew about the atrocities happening in the concentration camps. "I saw weird things, but that never crossed my mind" - is that an acceptable excuse?
But enough of guilty and not guilty. Waltz with Bashir is a visually powerful movie, which proves that a good animation doesn't need the realist effects of the Disney/Pixar movies, with its shininess and shadows, perfectly round, trying to exude tridimensionality. The opening scene, with the dog race, is a thrilling hallucination. The expressiveness in the faces, in an apparently rigid drawing; the soundtrack is astounding, giving the pictures a different meaning; and finally the picture of a conflict in the Middle East that does not come down to the number of deaths we hear about on television - these are only a few of the good reasons not to miss Waltz with Bashir.
You can watch the trailer here: