Saturday 7 August 2010

Movie Review: Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Waltz With Bashir is an animated documentary that explores the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon from the perspective of Israeli soldiers. A story of war with a strong anti-war sentiment, Waltz With Bashir hinges on the role of Israel in the devastating massacre of Palestinians that occurred towards the end of the war.

History has proven the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to be a massive strategic defeat hiding in a tactical victory. While the Israeli army had relatively little difficulty in routing the Palestinian Liberation Organization and its allies, and forcing the PLO's exit from Lebanon, the invasion triggered a long and demoralizing occupation of Lebanon's south that eventually resulted in the rise and empowerment of the Hezbollah movement, and the ignominious withdrawal of Israel out of Lebanon in 2000.

But most of all, the invasion is stained by the massacre of Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in September 1982. Israel allowed Christian militants to enter the camps and embark on a wild killing spree. No matter what gains were made in the invasion, the massacre cast a long shadow on Israel's actions and ability to hold the high moral ground in the region.

The Bashir of the title is Bashir Gemayel, Israel's ally and the leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces militia. His assassination prior to being sworn in as President of Lebanon at the end of the invasion was the first clear sign of the strategic unraveling of the objectives of the invasion.

Mainly a stylish but moody recounting of stories drawn from the personal experiences of writer and director Ari Folman, Waltz With Bashir focuses on the calm individual insanity that becomes commonplace in the madness of war. It reaches a horrific climax in recounting the massacre, with a large amount of guilt hanging over the soldiers and finger-pointing towards Israel's leadership.

Waltz With Bashir joins 1991's Cup Final as an excellent, emotion-packed examination of a most unfortunate and exceptionally horrible war.

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