Animating history and memory : the productions and aesthetics of Waltz with Bashir and Tower
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Films like Waltz with Bashir (2008) and Tower (2016) are unique in that they not only fit within accepted frameworks of documentary filmmaking, but they also use animation as their primary method of storytelling. Anabelle Honess Roe thoroughly explores animated documentaries in her book Animated Documentary, arguing that animation is used in these kinds of films to either “substitute” for traditional means to represent the real world (24), such as live action footage, or to “evoke” the psychology, emotional states, and other subjective experiences of an individual (25). Ultimately, Roe argues that animation is a suitable “representational strategy for documentary” filmmaking because of its “visual dialectic of absence and excess” (39). This report applies Roe’s arguments to the analysis of the aesthetics and roles of animation in Waltz with Bashir and Tower. In both of the films’ treatments of historical tragedies—the 1982 Lebanon War and massacres in the Beirut internment camps in Waltz with Bashir, and the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas in Austin in Tower—the films posit their animations as necessary means with which to both re-create the events surrounding those tragedies and to explore personal trauma. Yet while Waltz with Bashir has a more stylized form of animation to fit with its focus on the protean nature of personal memory, Tower uses a more mimetic form of animation, rotoscope, as a means of “mimetic substitution” (Roe 23) for live action footage. Unlike other writings on Waltz with Bashir, this report specifically offers close, formal analyses of specific scenes in both films. Through the analysis of particular scenes and by focusing on the films’ animation production processes, their treatments of color, and how they ultimately transition from animation to live action footage, this report reveals how the “substitutive” and “evocative” functions of animation are at work in these films.