This article explores the ways in which Waltz with Bashir (2008), Ari Folman’s animated war memoir, combines a commentary on memory with a moral stance on war. The authors argue that the film exemplifies the capacity of animated documentaries not only to show what is otherwise difficult or impossible to represent in non-animated documentaries, but to serve as a vehicle for fostering new relationships between the viewer and the documentary text. In this vein, the authors argue that Waltz with Bashir synthetically produces a rich, consistent, and thus trustworthy sense of reality for its viewers not despite but because of its unique aesthetic choices – its innovative animation techniques and mixing of reality with fantasy. Accordingly, the authors weave together analyses of the film’s content and form with accounts of their reception, discuss how the film evokes certain somatic responses with individuals, and consider the political significance these responses may engender.
This paper explores the relationship between memory, trauma and ethics in the Israeli war film Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008). I argue that Waltz with Bashir highlights a traumatic rupture between history and memory, and points to the decline of national collective memory in Israel. In the film, the war is represented as the private memory of a distinct social group—soldiers who fought in the First Lebanon War—and is no longer a collective memory, a lived and practised tradition that conditions Israeli society. The film is constructed as a kind of lieu de memoire that houses repressed traumatic events that have been denied entry into the nation’s historical narrative, and which the protagonists feel duty bound to remember. This detachment from the national collective memory draws the film into a timeless world of dreams, hallucinations and fantasies. The film does not aspire to reveal the true details of the war. Rather, it is concerned with memory and the very process of remembering, as well as with the ethical questions that they pose to both the film’s protagonists and its viewers. These questions are reflected both in the film’s narrative and in its unique aesthetics.