Waltz With Bashir Analysis Essay

Waltz with Bashir: Showing Guilt or Lack of It? One cannot stop himself from feeling sympathetic towards Ari Folman, the Israeli soldier who is trying to recover his memories of what happened during the Sabra and Shatila massacre in the 1980s. Folman shares this journey of recovering his repressed memories in his Animated-documentary film Waltz with Bashir (2009). When watching the film, one question keeps popping in my mind: Why? Why is Folman trying to remember? Why did Folman make this film? If we can determine the real reason of making the film, we can better perceive and understand it.

Raz Yosef simply answers these questions in his article “War Fantasies: Memory, Trauma, and Ethics in Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir” by saying that this film is really just a “hallucinatory quest” into Folman’s repressed memories of the Sabra and Shatila massacre and that it doesn’t “aspire to reveal the true details of the war” (313). The above mentioned answer is what made me think again about the real intention of the movie and my first impression of it. When I first watched the movie, I was glad to see that there is an Israeli soldier who was honest enough to actually feel guilty about what he did in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

But after watching the film a few more times, and really understanding what each scene means, l’ve come to the conclusion that although there are a few glimpses of guilt in the film, Folman, the filmmaker, tries to cover up this sense of guilt and assure himself and the audience that he and the rest of the Israeli soldiers had nothing to do with the massacre. With the help of Naira Antoun’s article “Film Review: ‘Waltz with Bashir”, I argue that Folman is guilty, and knows that he is guilty, but still tries to sugarcoat that truth using his film, Waltz with Bashir.

In order to understand how Folman is actually guilty, we have to know the extent of his participation in the massacre. We also have to know the meaning of being a bystander and see if it applies to Folman or not. During the massacre, Folman’s main job is to light the flares, so the Phalangists can see in the dark. What the Phalangists did with the help of that light was massacre and kill over a lot of innocent Palestinians. Thus, Folman does not only light the flares, he lights the flares that helped the Phalangists in committing the massacre.

Unlike what Yosef notes in his article about Folman being “a passive witnessobserver and not an active witness-participant” (323), I believe that Folman did indeed actively participate in the massacre. Being a passive witness-observer or in other words, a bystander means not taking any part in the event, and that is not what Folman does. Folman is not a bystander, and he is not a passive witness-observer. He consciously participated and helped the Phalangists in committing the massacre which makes him guilty.

After establishing the fact that Folman is guilty, one can’t help but notice how he is acting like guilty people who know that they are guilty, but are trying to cover up their guilt. For example, when asked about his feelings towards the massacre, Folman states in the film’s press-kit: “one thing for sure is that the Christian Phalangist militiamen were fully responsible for the massacre. The Israeli soldiers had nothing to do with it. ”

In answering this question, Folman does not only expresses his feelings about the massacre, no, he continues by justifying his actions and making sure that the readers understand that he rs understand that he and his fellow soldiers are not the ones to blame for the massacre. The need to explain that he had nothing to do with the massacre in a question that only asks him about his feelings, shows in a way that he knows deep down that he is guilty and wants to cover up his sense of guilt by talking his way out of it. If someone, for example, did something wrong, and is trying to assure people that he didn’t do it, he would seize every opportunity he finds to talk about his innocence.

This is exactly what Folman does in the press kit. He takes the chance that is offered to him by the interviewer, and talks about something nrelated to the main question just to… This sense of guilt that is haunting Folman while he tries to get rid of it, appears again in the press kit. Folman mentions that he “enjoyed” making the film, but the therapeutic part of it “sucked”. I believe the main reason he thinks that recovering his memories and making the film isn’t therapeutic for him is because he knows that he is guilty but he is not being honest with himself and the audience. How does he expect the film to be therapeutic when he clearly is trying to repress his memories even deeper by disconnecting himself from the actual events?

Him knowing that he is guilty but still trying to convince everyone that he is not, is what makes the therapy “sucks. ” (source? ) Another proof of Folman knowing that he is guilty, is him having a dream about the massacre. Regardless of the way the dream is portrayed in the film, the mere fact that Folman keeps having the same dream about the massacre demonstrates that he has some sort of feelings towards the massacre, because people don’t have repressed memories come back to them on the shape of dreams if the don’t care about that memory at all.

Also, the dream Folman is having does not accurately reveal his real contribution in the massacre. Folman by that is “disremembering” the event This “disremembering” term is mentioned in Yosef’s article where he quotes that “[disremembering] is remembering with a difference. ” Yosef also mentions how people tend to disremember when the events are “personally unfathomably or socially unacceptable” (Qtd in Yosef 318). By disremembering the events that happened in Sabra and Shatila, Folman is admitting his guilt and acknowledging that what he did in the massacre was “unfathomable” and “unacceptable. ”

In addition, Folman chooses smart dialogues and scenes in the film that assure the audience and persuade them into believing that he is not guilty. He does that by using both verbal and non verbal content. Verbally, he chooses multiple scenes with his friend where his friend is talking to him and trying to convince him -and the audience- that Folman is not guilty. In one scene, Folman’s friend/psychologist tells him that his interest in the massacre and remembering it mainly comes from the fact that these Palestinian camps reminds him of “the other camps” because Folman’s parents lived in Auschwitz camp during WW.

Shifting the concentration from Folman’s experience in the Sabra and Shatila camp to his parents’ experience in the Auschwitz camp makes it clear that Folman wants the audience to relate both camps to each other and remember the trauma that the Jews went through in WW11. By doing that, he is telling the audience that he did not have that dream because he feels guilty but because he is reminded of the true horrible massacre that his parents went through (the Auschwitz).

Another verbal persuasion is shown in the scene where Folman’s friend/ psychologist tells him that the most important thing to remember is the fact that he did not kill anyone. He just lit the flares. His friend/psychologist is also assuring Folman that he should not blame himself because he “only” lit the flares. And as mentioned previously, lighting the flares is concerned as an active act and not passive as Folman and his friends is trying to convince us. Another thing that helped in portraying Folman and his fellow soldiers as not guilt, is how they are depicted as young and naive soldiers.

This naivety of them can be clearly seen through their song choices. Folman and the soldiers are young and helpless soldiers who are, as Antoun notes, “fantasizing about women, wondering at how to prove their masculinity, licking the wounds of being dumped by girlfriends” and have no idea about the trauma that they are walking into. (Antoun). They are also seen singing songs in a happy “upbeat tunes” that don’t match the lyrics such as “Good Morning Lebanon… you bleed to death in my arms,” ” bombed Beirut, I bombed Beirut everyday” (Antoun).

Portraying Folman and the soldiers in this way makes it easier for the audience to believe that such naive and innocent soldiers can’t be blame for committing a horrible massacre. The last thing that proves that Folman feels no guilt and wants to make sure that everyone sympathizes with him and the soldiers is the real footage in the last scene of the film. Although the scene is horrific, I noticed that it isn’t subtitled. The woman is screaming in Arabic but no one can understand what she is saying because there is no subtitle.

And even for those who understand Arabic, the choice of the scene was ironic. Folman intentionally chooses a scene where a Palestinian woman is heard screaming “Where are the Arabs? ” as his last scene in the film. There is no mention of the Israeli’s role or even the philangit’s in the massacre. No, the only ones who are mentioned are the Arabs who did not do anything. Some people might say that Folman actually represents feeling guilty in the film by showing us his dream where he is seen seeking a refuge in water because he is afraid of the flares/the massacre and what guilt lies there. a way to respect the opinion but disagree… )

What I find interesting regarding Folman’s dream, is how different it is from Boaz’s dream. Boaz’s dream in the opening scene of the film shows 26 dogs running and waiting for him under his window. In his article, Yosef points out that Boaz’s dream means that he wants to “forget” and not remember massacring the 26 dogs. (318). I think that Boaz’s main reason of wanting to forget, is the fact that he feels guilty about having to kill 26 dogs during the massacre.

In his dream, Boaz sees these dogs, whom he killed, haunting him and waiting for him under his window. The way Boaz is actually there in his dream in the same place as the dogs demonstrates his sense of guilt. In contrast, when interpreting Folman’s portrayal of his only dream of the massacre where he is seen lying peacefully in the middle of the ocean, one can sense the detachment Folman is feeling of this massacre. One can see the flares get lit in the sky while Folman looks at them from a distance like he has nothing to do with them.

By repeatedly showing this dream, the viewer forgets that Folman is having the dream because he feels guilty, and instead develops a sense of Folman’s detachment from the massacre. Waltz with Bashir does a great job in lining people on its side by presenting the Israeli soldiers as victims and naive and completely disconnecting them from any real guilt of the massacre. But that doesn’t take away the facts that Folman is guilty, that he knows he is guilty, and that he used this film to prevail on the audience to believe that he is not guilty.