I'd heard universally good things about this film (in brief), but hadn't paid a great deal of attention to it. Sometimes you just need to let the hubub die down before you investigate, and that's just what I did. Having spotted it on Sky Movies last week I stuck it on a videotape and spent the next few nights watching it in chunks before bed (perhaps not the wisest idea considering the final moments of the film).
It's a beautifully animated documentary film that tells a story your average viewer is going to know little or nothing about. Indeed I pretty much know sod all about the content - the 1982 Lebanon war - so it was an interesting experience to come at it from a completely unbiased and uninformed position. It's rare these days to know so little about a film before you see it, so Waltz With Bashir was really able to speak to me on its own terms. Furthermore it is a stylish film in its visuals, choosing striking images throughout - a pack of dogs running through the streets, young soldiers bathing in the sea at night, firing blindly into the night, to name but three.
I do wish they'd put a grey filter behind the subtitles though, because they sometimes get lost amongst the captivating imagery (it was the same with Inglourious Basterds' yellow subtitles that would sometimes vanish amidst the scene's colours). I'm always a bit annoyed by having to read subtitles - being that they're at the very bottom of the frame - when it's such a visually lush film. Bashir is such a film, and I found myself sometimes getting tripped up by wanting to invest in the visuals - to see this representation of the conflict for myself - and wanting to read the oftentimes fast-paced sub-titles (which didn't have grey shading behind them to improve clarity).
I'm not entirely sure what to say about it all, but it is a fascinating film that we English speaking Westerners will mostly have not seen, and which we don't often see in our territories anyway. The film feels balanced in its view - it doesn't go into politics - but naturally addresses the atrocity of the massacre at the heart of the plot. We view the boredom, chaos, horrors and even fun-among-men of warfare from the viewpoints of a few men on the ground who were barely out of their teenage years when they fought in the war.
It's a conflict that is old, but feels new and tragically raw on screen in the form of film. It's at times hypnotic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes humorous, sometimes hallucinatory, and other times devestating. Indeed, the final moments are a real punch in the gut, and perhaps what its real purpose in existing is, is to make viewers want to find out more about the conflict and what the film is all about - and that's what I'm off to do right now.