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Heiman, N. Shalgi, B. (2020). Waltz with Bashir – The dialectic of escaping and confronting traumatic experiences. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(1):196-209.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(1):196-209

Film Essay

Waltz with Bashir – The dialectic of escaping and confronting traumatic experiences

Noa Heiman and Boaz Shalgi

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in

Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove

Dance me to the end of love

(Leonard Cohen)

Waltz with Bashir (2008) is an animated documentary feature film that explores the trauma of the filmmaker's (Ari Folman) experiences as an Israeli soldier in the first Lebanon war. After an encounter with a fellow veteran, the filmmaker realizes he completely repressed his own participation in the events of the war that took part 20 years prior to this encounter. He attempts to reconstruct the events and narrative of his experience during the war by interviewing fellow veterans in the hope of recovering his memory. The use of animation rather than real footage allows the filmmaker to convey reconstructed memories, fantasies, hallucinations, past and present. Moreover, this use of animation, and the interchange between animation and real footage, enables the filmmaker to play with different kinds of realities and experiences, a kind of “play” or movement which, as will be shown, has an essential role in the effort to reconnect with dissociative traumatic experiences and “reclaim unlived life” (Ogden 2016).

The making of the film is in many ways the filmmaker's own therapeutic journey to uncovering both personal and universal aspects of trauma. Accordingly, the film suggests a unique opportunity to look at some of the issues that are at the core of the traumatic experience and at the heart of the psychoanalytic endeavour to create the terms by which the unbearable can become bearable and the traumatic and dissociated experiences can become a part of the psyche again. In an effort to explore the film's contributions to understanding the ways trauma “works,” as well as to the processes by which dissociation turns into conflict (Bromberg 1998) and ghosts can form themselves as ancestors (Loewald 1960), we will focus on the ways in which the film and the filmmaker deal with some of the core issues of trauma, among them self-states and dissociation, repetition and “the present moment of the past” (Ogden 1994), bearing witness, and the movement between subjectivity and intersubjectivity in creating alpha function.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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