Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story

Ari Fol­man and David Polonsky
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011
When Ari Fol­man was a nine­teen-year old sol­dier in an Israeli com­bat unit, he was sta­tioned in Beirut dur­ing the 1982 war with Lebanon. As his unit was secur­ing two refugee camps, Chris­t­ian mili­tia mem­bers entered the camps and killed thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans. Fol­man repressed his mem­o­ries of that night for more than twen­ty years, until a friend’s recur­ring night­mare stunned him into real­iz­ing the extent of his mem­o­ry loss. Now a suc­cess­ful film­mak­er in Tel Aviv, Fol­man embarks on a jour­ney to fill in the gap­ing holes in his mem­o­ry. With the help of friends and fel­low sol­diers, he fol­lows a trail of flash­backs and rem­i­nis­cences, until he grad­u­al­ly puts togeth­er a pic­ture of his role in the war. 

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly released as a movie and a book, Folman’s graph­ic nov­el has a dream­like qual­i­ty. The illus­tra­tions are both real­is­tic and sur­re­al­is­tic; the back­grounds resem­ble pho­tographs, while the action and main char­ac­ters are depict­ed with bold col­ors and vivid expres­sions. The point of view switch­es between nar­ra­tors as Folman’s fel­low com­bat­ants strug­gle with mem­o­ry and trau­ma. A recur­ring image of three sol­diers emerg­ing naked from a black sea hyp­not­i­cal­ly brings the read­er clos­er and clos­er to a shock­ing end­ing, which serves to rein­force Folman’s mes­sage of the futil­i­ty of war.

Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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