Lately we have heard a great deal about a string of published memoirs which proved to be partly or mostly fictitious. In most cases, these books are immediately pulled from the shelves as soon as the truth is discovered.
But what happens when an artist casts his memoir under a thin veil of the overtly fantastic? Why, then he may say anything he wants.
One current example is the film Waltz with Bashir, an animated feature about Israel’s first war in Lebanon. Here, the whole thing is in cartoon, which is supposed to offer an artistic way of sharing the Israeli filmmaker’s experiences in the war. This is not the first time animation has been used in film to both cover and increase the horrible sense of what is being shown: In Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino broke to anime to depict violent rape.
But that was meant to be fiction. Waltz with Bashir is not — or at least, not really.
Over at Pajamas Media, John Rosenthal has offered a brilliant two-part take-down of Waltz with Bashir. The first part addresses the problematic nature of the work: Whereas the film certainly reflects the filmmaker’s feelings about his war experience, so many of the key scenes weave fiction with fact as to undermine the whole credibility of the memoir. The second part uncovers the funding behind the film — particularly the heavy support of European public funds, which have in the past gone to support the most blatant forms of grotesque Israel-bashing.
Waltz with Bashir has been a smashing success in Europe and stands a chance at winning an Oscar. Israelis, who are rightfully proud of their open society and culture of self-criticism, are beside themselves with joy. Should they be?