Friday, July 10, 2009
Reading Waltz With Bashir has been an interesting experience. Initially I was under the impression that it was a graphic novel based on a live-action movie, but as I came to learn more of the graphic novel's history I realized that this is a direct film-to-book translation of an animated piece. Each panel is captured from the film and given English dialogue. Despite my general dislike for book adaptations of movies, Waltz With Bashir actually works, because as a graphic novel it is as visually stimulating as a film might be and had an immense impact on me as a reader. Waltz With Bashir follows a man named Folman, one of the authors, actually, who has begun having strange and terrible dreams related to his involvement in the 1982 Lebanon War. But he can't remember anything from the war beyond vague details and sets out to unravel the pieces to finally achieve some semblance of piece in his sleep. In doing so, however, he begins to discover things about himself and the war that he would much rather forget. Waltz With Bashir is clearly an emotional piece, and it successfully strikes home the feeling of regret and terror that comes with war, and especially with particularly bloody ones. While the story never fully completes itself--Folman never recalls his past in its entirety--Waltz With Bashir does give us a detailed glimpse into the world of a modern day soldier in the Middle East. Particularly touching, for me, were the last few pages of the book, which showed real pictures from the events described by Folman in his memories. These are, to say the least, disturbing precisely because they are real images, not doctored or staged photos--at least, I assume they're not staged. The vast majority of us in the U.S. and other Western countries have not experienced the darker aspects of war, and probably never will. Waltz With Bashir, however, is a graphic novel that wants us to see these things; it wants to pull us out of our comfort zones to relay reality. Already I am a fan of this piece. While the artwork has a tendency to be a tad simplistic, the merger of real backgrounds with drawn figures is a welcome change from the more typical styles of comic art. And while Waltz With Bashir may not be science fiction or fantasy, I think readers here will enjoy not only the movie, but this graphic novel, because it manages to do what few graphic novels have done successfully: tell a self-contained, deep, and detailed story that is aware of the psychological conditions of its characters. This one is definitely worth picking up!