Jeanne-Marie Viljoen, Waltz with Bashir: between representation and experience, 2014. . Critical Arts 28, 40–50

The film is centered around Folman’s personal traumatic experience from the First Lebanese War. The story is revealed through an approach that uses other people’s representations of the same moment of history to fill in the gaps in the protagonist’s memory and blur the lines between the two seemingly conflicting categories: experience and representation. The article analyses the suitability of such technique to documenting traumatic events as it allows an “innacurate and fractured, yet intense and authentic” portrayal.

The thesis of the article is explored in 8 different aspects of duality divided in separate sections:

Waltz with Bashir: between experience and Representation serves as a consolidation and further elaboration on the already presented thesis from the introductory section.  It establishes the word “realistic” as a subjective term that can be irrelevant to a traumatic experience. Viljoen narrows down the main strengths of the film to “a remarkable display of written and spoken text, graphic images, colours, sound and silences – which refer to reality, dreams and conscious memories.”

Ari Folman: between experiences and representations of others gives a perspective of the director’s background to reveal the psychological cause of his memory loss. This additional context allows the author to elaborate further on the central thesis of the blurred border between experience and representation. Collective memory becomes a device to build a language that allows the traumatized individual to remember and share his experience.

Representational “Languages”: between fantasy and reality elaborates on the conflict reality/imagination in relation to memory. This section analyses how the director employs surrealism as a visual language to document horrific experiences. Viljoen gives precise dimensions to what is “realistic” and what is “surreal” in the film.

: between the visible and the invisible enriches the main thesis with a philosophical sublayer. The author uses Zizek’s theory of objective violence to prove that “the best way to access the invisible realm (of violence) is through the indirect method of exploring art and aesthetic traces of such violence.” Therefore, the goal of a piece of art that depicts traumatic encounters is not realism and clarity, but authenticity of sensational impressions.

Photography: between Presence and Absence analyses the role of the photographic sequence in the end of the film. This section refers to Zizek’s theory once more in order to question the directness of photography in representing an experienced event.

Film: between meta and material is focused on the viewer’s experience of a film. It refers to Vivian Sobchack’s theory of the conflict within the spectator’s experience when “one is both aware of the “unreality” of the film and the bodily reality of the content of the film”.

Animated documentary: between subject and object discusses the advantages of animation compared to live action documentaries. It stresses on the animation’s access to the subjective aspect of experiences which brings the audience closer to the “invisible”.

Comics: between words and images examines the graphic novel, the quality of distance behind words and the interdependence between written language and images in depicting violent experiences.

The article is concluded with a reaffirmation and summary of the exposed arguments.





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