War fantasies: Memory, trauma and ethics in Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir

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This paper explores the relationship between memory, trauma and ethics in the Israeli war film Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008). I argue that Waltz with Bashir highlights a traumatic rupture between history and memory, and points to the decline of national collective memory in Israel. In the film, the war is represented as the private memory of a distinct social group-soldiers who fought in the First Lebanon War-and is no longer a collective memory, a lived and practised tradition that conditions Israeli society. The film is constructed as a kind of lieu de mémoire that houses repressed traumatic events that have been denied entry into the nation's historical narrative, and which the protagonists feel duty bound to remember. This detachment from the national collective memory draws the film into a timeless world of dreams, hallucinations and fantasies. The film does not aspire to reveal the true details of the war. Rather, it is concerned with memory and the very process of remembering, as well as with the ethical questions that they pose to both the film's protagonists and its viewers. These questions are reflected both in the film's narrative and in its unique aesthetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-326
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2010


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