Three animated masterpieces: Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis & Waking Life

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Director: Ari Folman

Cast: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag

Many South Africans of a certain demographic will be intimately familiar with the main themes in Israeli director, Ari Folman’s animated documentary. Based on his personal experiences as a young soldier during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the narrative follows a middle aged Folman as he interviews his fellow veterans and tries to reconstruct his memories of the conflict.

The visceral, often surreal imagery brilliantly conveys the legacy of post traumatic stress and suppressed memories suffered by the ex-soldiers. All of the veterans Folman interviews display their own coping mechanisms, from denial to haunting nightmares.

Folman eventually lifts the veil on his own suppressed memories and for the first time confronts his experiences as a young soldier in the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which a Lebanese militia group massacred Palestinian civilians in two Israeli refugee camps.

With 26 award wins and 23 award nominations (including an Oscar nomination for best Foreign Language Film), Waltz with Bashir is a powerful example of animation as art form.

 

Persepolis(2007)

Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Gena Rowlands

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis is a biographical account of Satrapi’s life, beautifully rendered in black and white animation.

We meet Marjane as a precocious young girl living with her idealistic family in ’70s Iran. A poignant coming of age story unfolds against the tumultuous backdrop of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In one of the funnier scenes Marjane wears a ‘punk is not dead’ denim jacket over her abaya and buys Iron Maiden cassettes from black market vendors in Tehran.

The repressive nature of the new Islamic regime and Marjane’s outspoken nature force her parents to send her abroad to study. In Vienna she is confronted with the challenges of adapting to a new culture and being accepted by her peers. She eventually adjusts to her new environment, but homesickness leads her back to Iran and her family. Back in Iran she tries to get on with her life by getting married and entering art school, but the hypocrisy and tyranny she perceives around her forces her to make the heartbreaking decision to leave permanently for France.

A warm and engaging personal journey set against historical upheavals, Persepolis fully deserves all 17 award wins and 24 award nominations(including an Oscar nomination) it has garnered.

 

Waking Life (2001)

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

Richard Linklater, who has brought us generation defining cult classics like Slacker and Dazed & Confused, directed this animated philosophical masterpiece.

Funny and ingenious, this imaginative feature film explores the fascinating question: “ Are we sleep-walking through our waking state or wake-walking through our dreams?”

The film follows the main character, Wiley Wiggins, on a journey through his dreams where he has several existential conversations about life’s mysteries and tries to figure out the nature of reality vs dreams.Questions are asked – Can we control our dreams? What do our dreams tell us about life and death? Where do we come from and where are we going?

In the process we become the main character – it is our questions being asked and discussed.

The beauty of Waking Life is that it is never pompous or conceited, but rather a wildly invigorating, thrilling and moving experience. Never prescriptive it inspires us to ask the questions and find the answers ourselves.

This is a must see film for all the wonderers, the thinkers and especially the dreamers.