Sunday, February 22, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

I went to the Lincoln Center Theater early in the evening on Wednesday, having taken a vacation day since I've got some left over from last year, intending to see The Class. But since the times were inconvenient, I wound up going to Waltz with Bashir instead. It had been raining and I've worn through the soles of my shoes so I sat there cold in the thankfully-only-part-way-full theater in my wet socks, eating a bucket of popcorn and using my coat as a blanket. 

I hadn't been totally sure I wanted to see the movie because I haven't been feeling totally up to seeing depressing things lately. But I'm so glad I saw it, and in the theater. It's an oddly beautiful movie, not just about war but also about the nature of memory and history. And it's so difficult to watch but at the same time never feels like a chore.  

I think that the ways in which we construct our own histories--both consciously and unconsciously--are fascinating. History is most interesting when we consider it as a narrative that we construct. And that is the framework within which Waltz with Bashir plays out. The protagonist is trying to reconstruct his own past using the faulty memories of his compatriots, and in the process shows us the tragedy of the 1982 Lebanon War. As a story told in dreamscapes and recollections it has a surreal air, and yet it always feels like you're seeing something truthful. That truth, though, is a personal truth, the tragedy one of individuals as well as nations, and the film acknowledges the importance of that at the same time as addressing the broader subject of war and how people forget and remember, how they lie to themselves and others. 

The only thing I was unsure of was the sudden switch from animation to live action newsreel footage. It was as if the filmmaker was trying to remind us that this was something that actually happened and not a work of fiction. But I don't think it ever felt like fiction in the first place. And I don't think it was any less truthful because it was drawn not filmed. It felt like we were being provided with proof--see, this was awful, this was real--but I think that with a work of art so consistent in its aesthetic and so emotionally engaging,  we don't actually need any proof to believe in it. 


Nowwecometoseven said...

Meghan, I wrote to you by / out of the air/ and then I found your piece on Daughters of Troy accidentally today / any interest in being involved with my journal Pequod? I'll send you a pdf of something int. Fondly,

Meg said...

Hi, Mark. Good to hear from you! I'd email you (or respond to your email) but I locked myself out of my NYU email a couple years ago (long story) and I don't have your email. You can reach me at yourpaperboats [at] gmail [dot] com though.

Or is your email address the one listed under "contact" on your website? If I don't hear from you I'll try that.

Hope all is well with you.