24/11/08, Curzon Soho
(Written by D)
Animated documentary film, dir Ari Folman. D with A, S, J (J’s formidable friend S and C, v nice, from the film course). Midday showing on the cheap Monday tickets, we were virtually the only people in the cinema and Jackie told them to turn the volume down – twice.
Film started with a pack of snarling dogs racing through deserted streets at night, quite scary – then cut to two middle aged men in a bar. One is describing his dream about the pack of dogs, always 26 of them. He’s asked how he knows that there are 26 of them and he tells Ari (Folman) because he remembers killing every one of them. When on patrol during the war his platoon sergeant knew he would not be able to kill anyone so they got him to shoot the dogs when they arrived at the villages, to silence them. He asks Ari what he dreams about the war.
Ari says he doesn’t dream. But he does, one dream continuously repeated where he is lying in the sea with Carni and another man he doesn’t know, watching the flares land on Beirut. Next morning, he’s compelled very early to visit his friend/brother, a psychoanalyst to ask him about the dream. He gently tells Ari that he should find how the dream relates to what he did during the war. Ari realises he can’t remember what happened then.
The animation is terrific in that you very quickly forget it is animated. The characters have personalities and physical quirks and the soundtrack, rustle of clothing, background noise, loading of rifles etc is very realistic. Trees wave in the breeze as cars go by and despite the very khaki colour palette it seems very realistic.
As Ari talks to more and more people from that time the story gradually unfolds. He was petrified most of the time, as were most of his young conscript comrades and they fire indiscriminately when they land on shore in Lebanon even though there is nothing to fire at. Everywhere there are pictures of President Bashir. There is a street firefight where one of Ari’s comrades through terror at seeing his fellows mown down by gunfire, runs into the street and amazingly doesn’t get instantly shot and waltzes around flying bullets, hence the title.
Cut back to the psychoanalyst friend/brother who tells Ari that he doesn’t want to remember because he is on the side of the aggressor and is behaving like a Nazi in the Ghetto during the war, which for a Jew is obviously very hard to deal with. These scenes though very brief don’t seem to sit well with the rest of the film – they have a different tone and pace. Almost as if Folman felt it necessary to put in the explanation, but wasn’t quite sure how to handle something which was obviously very complex – it’s possible they were heavily cut.
The confusion over friend/brother is due to not knowing anything about the language, no clues at all. It wasn’t like watching a French film where you pick up some of the language. You had to concentrate on the subtitles to know what was going on and so sometimes missed some of the action.
Finally Ari pieces it together. He was outside the camps when the Christian Phalangists went in, the Israeli army acting as guards. The soldiers realised that dead people were being brought out in trucks which were empty going back into the camps. They complained to their superiors that something was not right but were told it had already been reported. Ari’s job is to set off the flares so that the Phalangists can see – so his dream is not accurate in him being an observer, he is actually a participant. His patrol goes into the camp the next day.
The final scenes of the film are live action, but with no soundtrack, only there is no action, only massacred Palestinians.
A very sombre ending to a very sombre film, certainly makes you think and indeed I remember seeing it reported on the news. The film was obviously cathartic for Folman and really shows what the mind can do to shut out terrible things. It also shows how chaotic and confusing war is and the terrible effect it has on inexperienced young men.