Just got back from seeing Waltz With Bashir. I think it has percolated enough that I can write something down about it.
Imagine you’re at a party for a friend of a friend. It’s a housewarming party, a stately affair in the gardens of a secluded piece of land overlooking a river. Formal and well presented, everyone is mingling with everyone else. Except for you.
Looking through the ocean of people you spot another lonely soul bobbing on the surface. He sits on a stone bench by thick rosebush, petals dark crimson in the intimate wan light. He nurses a drink, no one paying attention to him and he seems not to care. Or at least not to care enough to get up and talk to someone. But you care, and you manage to float your way over to him.
Exchanging pleasantries and small chat, you find yourself interested in this fellow. He looks as if he’s on the verge of twilight. Perhaps middle age if the light was dimmed a fraction more. He’s in a dinner jacket and slacks but his tie has been abandoned. A growth around his chin and jawline, to deep to be called shadow, to trim to be called a beard gives his face the appearance of the disaffected distinguished. And as he talks more, broaching into deeper and engaging discussion, you find that you follow him as he decides to stretch his legs.
Touring the new surroundings leisurely, matters turn toward history, politics, philosophy and how they relate to you and him. You contribute every now and then but you’re happy to continue listening. And listen you do until one comment seems off-kilter; seems not quite like the others; seems to introduce a pause awkward enough to make you realise that you’ve walked a little further from the crowds than you had realised.
Seeing your discomfort the older gentleman gracefully apologises, a self-depricating comment about how he goes on and on given the excuse and he makes it up to you by freshening your drink. He’s charming and genuine – in fact ‘genuine’ is how you’d describe him in a word – and you nod as he returns to the crowd allowing you to take the night air and look up at the stars.
You find, despite the peaceful surroundings, that you are grateful when he returns and hands you a drink. Champagne, same as what he’s having. Conversation continues about the small things which grow in size and once again you’re treated to scintillating wit and observation and insight. What he says invites you to ponder and he smiles and agrees with what you say in return, expanding on your thoughts in myriad and voluminous length as both of your feet move along the path. And this time when he says something jarring you chalk it up to a misunderstanding, or another perspective, or a harmless dottering view that doesn’t warrant you interrupting the moment.
However the misunderstandings start to blossom; thoughts expand into somewhat uncomfortable directions, but he seems to be heading toward something and you indulge and be patient and don’t realise that you haven’t done more than nod and walk for the last five minutes. And it isn’t until you realise this that you find yourself at the bank of the river, moonlight splashing and rippling across the surface and the lights of the manor house with all its numerous guests are as far away as the stars themselves.
And with your back to the river and the old man pressed closely toward you – still talking – you find you couldn’t return even if you wanted to. And a chill as cold as the water near your ankles runs through you.
He doesn’t stop talking now, apologies are done and there is no time for you to interrupt; no time to break away; nothing to do but wait until he has done talking and now he’s talking louder and louder and you know, somewhere inside that isn’t yelling at you to get away; get away now! that you know how this ends. That you can see the size of it; from innocent beginning to gruesome end. And looking at the conversation you realise, not once, did he ever mention who he knew or how he was ever invited to this party in the first place.
The last thing you see as your head is pushed down under the water is the old man looking you in the eye. And while he doesn’t say it, and while you couldn’t hear him even if he did, he is as truly sorry as you are that you decided to follow him to the water.
That is Waltz With Bashir. And I couldn’t recommend it enough.