Ari Folman

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
6.4 Saint Clara (1996)
7.3 b>Waltz with Bashir (2008)
6.8 b>The Congress (2013)

Ari Folman (Israel, 1962)

Saint Clara (1996) is an adaptation of Pavel Kohout's novel "The Ideas of Saint Clara".

Based on Pavel Kohout’s novel “The Ideas of Saint Clara”, the feature film follows the story of a young Israeli girl who is able to predict the future and has telekinetic powers. The movie is divided into several sub-plots, all centered on Clara’s paranormal skills.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Made in Israel (2001)

Between theater of the absurd and bitter drama, Made in Israel is a futuristic fantasy focused on the pursuit of Egon Shultz. The world's only remaining nazi, Egon gets handed over to Israeli authorities. Fearing for his release due to lack of evidence, the rich man Hoffman engages several assassins in order to capture him. A series of misunderstandings and subterfuges prevent the plan from being as Hoffman planned.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Folman first experimented with animation in Vals Im Bashir/ Waltz with Bashir (2008), an unusual "documentary" about the Israeli-Lebanon war of 1982 in which he was personally involved, and specifically about the events leading to the two-day Sabra and Shatila massacre in which thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered by Christian militias with the tacit complicity of the Israeli army. Of course, the filmmaker's amnesia is a metaphor for his country's amnesia about the massacres that happened back then; and is the introverted guilt that never quite reveals itself for guilt, as if soldiers were mere spectators and not killers. But the chiaroscuro art has an hallucinatory quality that pushes the film beyond the political stage. Folman reconstructs the past by interviewing various fellow soldiers of the time, a process similar to Kurosawa's Rashomon, and similarly the outcome is always subjective. Sometimes those soldiers come out as heroes, sometimes as children, sometimes as butchers. Ultimately, the film is a philosophical discussion on the nature and meaning of memory, on what memory chooses to remember and to forget, to manipulate and to dispose of. From this point of view the film is more closely related to Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour than to Coppola's Apocalypse Now. But the ending is clearly about the folly of the human race, the countless tragedies that dot the history of human civilization, and the inexplicable meaning of war.

The protagonist is the film-maker himself, Ari. An old friend, Boaz, has invited him to a bar on a rainy winter day and is telling him about a recurring nightmare: a pack of rabid dogs running through a city and stopping under his house. The nightmare comes from Boaz's experience in the 1982 war: since he was not capable of killing people, he was put in charge of killing the dogs that would warn people of the Israeli patrols. Twenty years later Boaz started having these nightmares that brought him back mentally to the horrors of the war. Ari is shaken himself. He realizes that he never thought back about the events that he personally witnessed during that war. A friend who is a psychotherapist tells him that memory is a creative medium: it can hide things and it can also fabricate others. Ari sets out on a journey to recover the real memories. He begins with Holland, where a rich friend now lives. It is winter and the landscape is snow-white. The Dutch friend tells the story of how his squad landed in Lebanon and attacked a sleepy town. Ari still can't remember anything except vague images of naked soldiers surfacing from the sea: one is Ari himself and another one is the Dutch friend. Then on the way to the airport he finally remembers: he remembers how he, still a teenager, entered Lebanon in command of a tank that was soon full of dead and wounded bodies. Back home Ari continues to interview former soldiers and now the film is all about battle scenes, viewed from the perspective of young inexperienced scared soldiers. The first one narrates how he alone survived a Palestinian ambush and managed to swim back to safety, where his regiment is waiting on the beach. Images of young boys surfing and listening to rock music overlap with images of airplane raids. A festive soundtrack accompanies the cartoonish images of shootings and bombings. Ari meets Boaz again in the same bar and tells him that now he remembers. The story continues with Ari telling Boaz what he now remembers. He remembers when an informer told them of a coming suicide bombing. It turned out the victim was Bashir Gemayel, Lebanon's elected president and the charismatic leader of the Christian militias and, more importantly, a loyal ally of Israel against the Palestinians. A war hero tells him of marching into Beirut under sniper fire from every direction while civilians watched and commented from the balconies of residential buildings as if they were watching a movie. One of the soldiers finally jumped out of their hiding place and started dancing in the street as if enjoying the attention, like a rock star. Ari is still haunted by the vision of naked soldiers landing on the beach at night, but the Dutch friend tells him it never happened. It is spring and Ari chats with his Dutch friend sitting on a bench in the middle of a field of flowers. His friend remembers the massacre of the Palestinians that followed the killing of Bashir: the refugee camps became slaughterhouses, with body parts of Palestinians everywhere. His friend tells him how Bashir was the poster-boy of the Christian Lebanese, his posters pasted everywhere. Back home Ari's psychotherapist encourages him to interview more people and find out exactly what happened, otherwise Ari's mind will never be at peace. Another veteran, Dror, narrates how the Israeli army witnessed the attack by the Christian militias into the Palestinian camps: children, women, elderly. The civilians were escorted to the stadium (in images eerily reminiscent of Jews deported by Nazis during World War II). Ari interrogates the veteran: how did the Israelis let the massacre happen? The veteran testifies that he immediately reported it to his superiors, and his superiors to their superiors; but nobody did anything. A journalist, Ron, learned of the massacre and he personally called the minister of defense. The politician (a future prime minister of Israel) clearly ignored the report and went back to sleep. Ari was standing on a rooftop and could see the flares shot by the Israeli army to light up the night, i.e. to help the militias find and kill civilians. Ron was the first journalist to reach the camps and personally witnessed the civilians escorted by the militias towards the death fields, scenes that he related to the images from the Nazist concentration camps. The moment he arrived the authorities ordered the shooting to stop. Ron walked around the ruins and saw the extent of the destruction, and the courtyards full of dead women and children and the piles of dead young men in the alleys: first the young men were taken to the alleys to be shot, then the women and the children were killed in the courtyards of their homes. Ari finally remembers: he remembers that he was there, that he stared at the screaming survivors, incapable to understand how this could have been let happen. And now the film abandons the animation and turns to real video footage of 1982.

The animated and live-action The Congress (2013) is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel "The Futurological Congress" (1971).

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )