For the most part, animation and film have always been in two very different worlds. And in these worlds, they play to their strengths. Film has the ability to capture reality in it’s purest form and presents it like so. Animation, on the other hand, is free to explore the imaginary and upmost creative stories. Anything from The Simpsons to Toy Story fall into this category.
Naturally, there are exceptions. With sets, special effects, and costumes/makeup, film can be as creative as animation. Movies like Star Wars or Avatar have created worlds just as imaginary as any animation, but they take many strides in an effort to being considered ‘realistic.’
There are fewer examples of the opposite, with animation trying to look realistic. Video games are the only solid example that strive to be as realistic as possible.
Ok, so all that being said, where am I going with this? The movie Waltz with Bashir falls in a grey area between animation and film. The way it was made is crucial to appreciating the movie itself. It took actual documentary footage and transformed into a unique looking animation. The story it tells takes many liberties with this approach.
First of all, when I was watching it, I was constantly asking myself: what would this scene look like as the actual film. This mindset really draws you in as you are constantly being reminded that this could (and probably was) filmed footage.
Ari Folman knows you are aware of this as you first start watching his film, so he then sucks you into the story being told. For all you know, the animation in front of you is as real as film, and this is exactly what he wants you to think. His next step is creating footage that would have been impossible to film, but because it is mixed in with this ‘documentary’ footage and visually looks identical, our minds to not make note of which parts are real and which parts were completely artificially constructed.
I found myself snapping out of the trance in the middle of the ‘waltzing’ scene and realizing how impossible it would have been to shoot. Guns were going off all over the plaza, and bullets were whizzing by the character who was ‘dancing’ in the center of it all, firing his gun in all directions.
If I had not snapped myself out of it, I think I would have gone on believing that this scene was part of the documentary and actually filmed. This is the power of Ari Folman was hoping for. He wanted his film to seem as realistic as possible, while still telling a story you wouldn’t stand a chance actually filming.
For me, this ‘snapping out of it’ moment happened earlier in the movie because I was consciously thinking about it, but Ari Folman was hoping this moment wasn’t going to happen until he did it himself in the final minute of the film, when he transitions the animation to the actual documentary footage. Either way, it is a powerful moment of realization, and really makes you think about the line between animation and film, and if it is really as big as you thought it was.